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Preparing for a Law Exam in 24 Hours or Less

Digital clock displaying 24

I’ve seen his scenario coming for a few days, but I’ve been busy: other exams, bad television repeats, etc. It’s the day before the exam when I finally clear my desk, pull out all my textbooks, notes and highlighters. ‘I am a great law student,’ I tell myself. ‘I can totally do this.’

Enough positive reinforcement, it’s time to read the exam advice sheet. A three hour exam with three essay or problem-solving questions, five short answer questions and fifteen multiple choice questions. ‘Students will be examined on all topics covered this semester,’ the advice sheet reads. Uh-oh.

A little scared but undeterred, I flip to the subject outline. Oh wow. I’d forgotten how much we covered this semester. I wish I’d started making my notes sooner. But more than anything, I wish I had studied this elective with an academically disciplined, Hermione Granger-type friend who could email their comprehensive notes to me now.

I call a nerdy friend anyway, hoping their studiousness will at least rub off onto me. ‘You’ll be totally fine,’ they say, but their voice suggests their real meaning is, ‘I’m absolutely terrified on your behalf.’

Not to worry, there are others who can provide helpful advice and positive reinforcement. I update my Facebook status about my plight and the tips come rolling in, some more practical than others:

  1. Canned coffee.

  2. Set multiple alarm clocks to go off every hour in case you have fallen asleep.

  3. Make a timeline plan, hour by hour, of what you will achieve.

  4. Considering legal and illegal stimulants.

  5. Allocate five minutes per hour to questioning every life decision that led you to your current dire distress.

  6. Weep.

Somehow two and a half hours have slipped by. It’s time to write a to-do list. Item one: make notes. Item two: read notes several times.

I figure making my own notes will be far more educational than just using the lecture slides, and I should be able to make a succinct set of notes within two hours. Besides, lengthy notes are the enemy of open book exams.

Forty minutes into my note-making boot camp and I’ve only written three pages. I get the feeling this isn’t going to work. It’s time for a change of strategy. On second reading, I decide that the lecture slides are actually quite good, and just need to be reformatted for easier reading. Then all of a sudden it’s 10:30pm. I haven’t finished transforming those slides into my notes, let alone read everything through. I decide that I’m probably going to fail my first law subject tomorrow and I loathe myself.

Dejected, I play a few games of Tetris, before experiencing a second bout of motivation. Back to it! All note-making and converting strategies have now been abandoned; I simply print the lecture slides and begin reading, highlighting and scrawling notes on them as I go. This is much easier. I’m halfway through my reading when exhaustion hits and I decide that some sleep will be necessary for tomorrow.

A few hours later and I’m back highlighting my printouts. The next time I look up, it’s only an hour until my exam starts and I realise that I haven’t eaten today. I wildly run around the house cooking toast, throwing notes into a bag and searching for clean clothes.

After a frantic 24 hours, a series of academic compromises and a stressful taxi trip to uni, I’m finally in the exam.

If the exam goes well, I will think that I:

a) Have cheated death;

b) Have a special gift for the law; or

c) Probably completely misread the exam questions.

If the exam goes badly, I will feel like:

a) Having a drink;

b) Going on a long summer holiday and never coming back;

c) Revising my career aspirations; or

d) All of the above.

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