How to stay motivated for a supplementary exam
Sometimes the universe just hates you and conspires to make your life as difficult as possible. I spent weeks preparing for my exams at the end of last year, and I was ready. Well, as ready as you ever are for exams.
Four days out from my first exam I suddenly came down with a nasty illness and was admitted as an inpatient at my local hospital. I have a vague recollection from my drug-induced stupor in the emergency department of asking my treating doctor if he could just make it go away, because I had exams next week. Why didn’t he understand?
As it turns out, your body and your doctors don’t seem to give a damn about your exams, regardless of how much yelling and cajoling you do. Nor do they care about the months of hard work leading up to this moment, or the fact that none of your plans are compatible with being stuck in a hospital bed.
If/when you ever find yourself stuck in a similar situation, you may need to apply to sit a supplementary (back up) exam at a later date. Why? Because there is just no way they will let an IV pole and a machine that goes ‘ping’ into the exam room, and let’s face it, you probably shouldn’t be writing an exam when you are getting morphine injections every four hours.
It is absolutely critical that you call your unit chair/lecturer/grand poohba of your faculty. Let them know what is going on. I found that even my crankiest lecturer was very compassionate and caring when I called to explain my predicament. They were even kind enough to walk me through the application procedure.
My nurses (incidentally, if you're ever in hospital, be nice to your nurses – they run the place, much like the clerks and registry staff at court) were kind enough to fax off lovely letters to my lecturers saying I was not fit to sit the exam. Then Bob’s your uncle, I had a couple of supps. I didn’t have to sit my exams and could just focus on recovering. At first it was surreal, but I did as my doctors and even my lecturers said, and I rested and recuperated. After all, the supplementary exams were 16 weeks away. I had plenty of time.
Christmas came and went. New Year’s Eve came and went. Everyone was well and truly in R & R mode. My children were home from school and kinder and it was all about the holiday fun. By mid January, I started to get nervous. It seemed that all of sudden, the exams for those subjects I had not thought about in over 2 months had crept up on me and were now only 4 weeks away.
I sat with my long-suffering significant other and began to panic. He, being the stalwart that he is, promised to pester and nag me into studying each night until the exams. True to his word, he pestered. He nagged. He turned off the TV, or worse, decided to watch Rambo. He made studying seem the much better option every time.
As it had been so long, I did the unthinkable. I started from scratch. I needed to. I had forgotten most of everything. My brilliantly concise exam notes prepared in October were nothing but a vague jumbled mess in January. I went through my study guide, admittedly significantly faster than the first time, topic by topic and made even better notes than before. In some ways I felt lucky to have a second swing at getting a greater understanding of the subjects.
There are a few tricks to staying motivated and each of us will have different triggers. For me it was being nagged and pestered and avoiding watching the allegedly cinematic classic that is Rambo. For you it may be setting reminders on your phone or computer. You need to know when it’s two weeks away. You need those two weeks to get your head back in the game.
As for missing out on the joy of holidays, take some time to still have fun. Go to that music festival, head to the beach for a weekend, or hang out with your kids at a park for the afternoon. Don’t deny yourself the holidays.
Just remember to set aside the time to reacquaint yourself with your subject before the exam. There is a strong chance that you will have forgotten at least one or two of the salient details and you’d be doing yourself an injustice if you didn’t try to give yourself the best shot at the exam. No one will be more disappointed than you if you forget something critical in the exam and later find out when you receive your marks.
So if you’re facing the prospect of a supplementary exam, good luck! On those days when the universe hates you, remember that you are training to be a lawyer, so the universe had better watch out!
Enjoyed this post? Sign up for the Survive Law weekly newsletter for more.