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Surviving a Terrible Exam Timetable

Metal alarm clock

It's halfway through the semester. If you're the average law student, you're probably a bit behind on the readings, you have barely started your summary notes and haven't even thought about attempting practice problems. Then you see your exam timetable, and all hell breaks loose. You may be in a situation like I found myself in this semester, with two consecutive exams on two very different areas of law right at the beginning of the exam period.

My first reaction was anger and despair. How can the people who organise the exam timetables be so sadistic? How can they not realise that these units are usually taken concurrently? It maybe tempting to wallow in self pity but that definitely won't get you ready to take on the exam timetable from hell. So here are a few tips for handling the nightmare of a bad exam schedule…

Start Now

As soon as you receive your exam timetable, do what you can. Catch up on your readings. Write summary notes and master the content you have learned so far. Of course, that is easier said than done but if you can do it, you’ll then have enough time to attempt some practice problems and get your hand accustomed to writing 1,000+ words an hour.

You are Not Alone

Chances are, given that law students take the same core units, there are other people who are in the same situation as you. Although this may be terribly clichéd advice, form a study group. After your group has attempted a past exam, discuss your answers. Law is highly subjective, and chances are, you won't have covered every issue or argument. If the exam has a policy question, divide up some of the research. While it is best to research areas that are likely to come up yourself, there is no harm allocating the more obscure policy areas between members of your group. That way, you won't drive yourself crazy trying to research every possible topic.


The whole point of starting your revision now is that you’ll still have time to balance all that study with a normal, healthy lifestyle. You don't need to cancel any shifts at work, or stop going to the gym. In fact, I wholeheartedly recommend that you keep up with your favourite TV shows, as Harvey Specter may provide the inspiration you need to get those contract notes done. It’s all about everything in moderation. Know what times you can maintain high levels of productivity, and try to study for an hour or two at that time each day. Use the things you enjoy as a reward for completing your readings, or finishing your case summaries. There is no need to drop everything because you have exams coming up.

It’s inevitable that at a point in our degree, the timing of assessments or exams will suck. The key is to do everything possible to minimise the impact of sheer bad luck. Remember, summer break is just around the corner and it will all be over soon enough!

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