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The Eight Stages of Exam Preparation

Woman pulling bed covers up to her face

For all our supposed intelligence, most law students struggle to learn from the mistakes of last exam preparation season. Even when we promise ourselves that it this semester will be different, we invariably end up repeating this same routine…

Other Priorities

People keep telling you that exams are going to be here soon, but right now all you can deal with are the five back-to-back last-minute assignments you have due in the next two weeks. Exams are important, but probably not as important as the work currently in front of you.

Denial and Recovery

Those last minute assignments were so stressful! Understandably you need time to recover a little, so you’re going to pretend that exams just don’t exist for a while. Treat the next few weeks like the mid-semester break you never got to have because you were writing last-minute essays and presentations.

Planning = Study

You’re not quite at the point of cracking open the books yet, but making the world’s most perfect and demanding exam timetable is akin to study, right? A splash of colour-coding on that timetable will make you feel even better.

You’ll probably also look up exam dates and times and write them in your diary. Now you can ignore the approaching exams for a little while longer.

Academic Armageddon

Exams are next week? Oh my Gaudron!

Over the next few days you retreat from the outside world. “Don’t approach me unless you’re bringing food,” you warn others. “I will not sleep/ shower/ communicate in anything more than unintelligible grunts until I understand the bias rule.”

Near Enough is Good Enough

All of a sudden you just don’t care, and you work out that all you need is 18 out of 50 in the exam to pass the subject. In the last few days before the exam, your “ideal world” exam study timetable is very quickly whittled down to the bare essentials. You’d intended to do every practice paper you could get your hands on, but half a practice paper seems about as good as doing ten.


A few hours before sleep on exam eve, you change your mind and decide that near enough is not good enough. You decide that you need good marks or else you won’t get a good job, followed by the nice house, nice car and nice life. Much stress ensues.


This doesn’t happen in the lead-up to all exams, but quite often at around 11pm the night before your exam, the pieces just seem to fall into place. All of a sudden you understand the material. It’s a miracle!


You’re not quite sure if last night’s moment of clarity has worn off, but sleep deprivation and lack of a substantial breakfast mean you walk into the exam room quietly, and what appears to everyone else to be calmly. You’d be stressed if you weren’t so tired. In fact, you feel a tad delirious. Most of the exam ends up feeling like an out of body experience.

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