Now that we’re past the half-way mark of the semester, it’s time to start thinking about exams. It might seem like you have plenty of time right now, but the earlier you begin preparation, the better.
Isn’t it too soon to start thinking about exams?
No, now is the best time. The later you leave it, the more stressful the last couple of weeks of semester will be. This is especially true if you have been skipping readings or classes while writing your interim assessments.
But I need a break.
I’m not saying you can’t take a weekend off, or that you can’t catch up with the friends and family that you have been neglecting over the past couple of weeks. What I’m saying is – don’t assume that you don’t have to do anything more until week 12. Preparing for law exams takes much longer than you’d think, and it is best to spread the workload across many weeks rather than 2 or 3.
How do I do that?
At the moment, a good place to start would be creating a study schedule if you don’t have one already. If you do, make sure that you add on a few extra hours per subject per week for each subject to catch up and prepare for exams. During these extra hours you should be:
- Reading or re-reading subject materials
- Taking notes on subject materials
- Consolidating your notes into exam-ready notes
- Doing practice exams
You should also be wary of ineffective studying – don’t spend too much time on things that are unlikely to improve your grades in an exam. Bear in mind the pareto principle – 20% of the work often leads to 80% of the results. This means that you should always begin by identifying and doing that 20%.
You might also want to use the time to do further research on areas that you don’t understand. Some of these alternative textbooks can be useful for this purpose.
Why do I need to start preparing my exam notes now?
Because preparing exam notes now does three things:
- It consolidates everything that you have learned during the semester. Forcing yourself to revise the first few weeks will refresh them in your memory. Reducing complex cases to a few lines in your exam-ready notes will require you to think about the most important aspects of the case. This process creates a ‘hook’ which will allow you to recall the case in more detail.
- It creates a schema which will allow you to begin making connections between the different parts of the course. A schema is a method by which your brain organises information that will allow you to recall information more effectively as well as store new information. For more information on schemas, see Chapters 2 and 3 of Michael Hunter Schwartz, Expert Learning for Law Students.
- It allows you to being practicing for exams. Practice tests are one of the most effective ways of learning.
Finally, preparing exam notes now ensures that you have enough time to prepare multiple drafts and review your notes before the exam. Each time you do a practice exam, you will spot gaps or other problems with your exam notes. This will indicate which areas you will need to revise or do further research on.
I understand what you’re saying, and I agree that there are incontrovertible benefits to beginning exam preparation now, but I’m not going to do it.
Well, that’s your prerogative as a free-thinking figment of my imagination. Just don’t come crying to me during swot vac.