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  • Writer's pictureWenee Yap

Planning for Academic Success

Coloured books and pens

For most students, it is quite understandable to be late on an assessment or find themselves underprepared for an exam at least once in their studies. This is particularly so if you’re a student as well as a working professional, supporting a family, all of which place equal strain on your limited time.

“Believe it or not, all lecturers want to see students do well in their subjects,” said Dr Sally Varnham, Associate Professor with the Faculty of Law at the University of Technology, Sydney. Associate Professor Varnham is a specialist in the area of Law and Education, and is working on a major research project regarding student grievances.

So late you’re early

Effective, mildly obsessive time management is quite a rarity in law school. It is, however, a common habit amongst those who tend to do well. For many, the mantra of ‘Ps means degrees’ is all they want out of uni, and that’s fine. Uni, after all, is more about the skills you learn than the grades you make. However, if you find yourself constantly coming down to the wire with handing in your assessments, or always asking for extensions, you may want to look out how you plan and allocate your time to tasks.

“Write lists,” advised Sally Varnham. “Be organised in your work environment. Allocate tasks for each day – and stick to them.”

Don’t take on too much in one semester. If you can, try and take on a job that is quite flexible, and keep it part-time. If you are in full-time employment and studying law to up-skill or shift professions, consider taking a part-time study load of 1-2 subjects and catching up in summer or winter semesters.

Law subjects have deceptively few in-class hours. The rest is intended for preparation and personal study. As a general rule, you need to spend about 2 – 2.5 hours of preparation – doing your readings, answering problems for discussion in class, working on assignments – for each hour of schedule class time. That is, if you have 5 hours of class time for a subject, you need about 10 hours of preparatory time. With 3-4 subjects in a full-time load, studying law quickly becomes a time-consuming pursuit. Of course, this is merely a guideline. You won’t need to spend 30 or 40 hours studying law every week…few students do. However, do be prepared to spend a few hours each day on your readings and assignments. In essence, if you make uni a habit, you will find you will rarely fall behind.

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