Exam time looms, and you have an open book exam ahead: rejoice! There is a common misconception that open book exams are easier than closed book exams, but I find that they can often be harder. You are expected to divulge more detail than you would otherwise, and if you haven’t got a good set of notes, it could mean the difference between a pass and fail, or even between an average mark and the holy grail of a HD.
Sitting so many open book exams throughout my law school experience has made me realise just how important the materials you take into them can be. Here are my top tips for getting your notes right…
Don’t leave your note preparation for SWOTVAC! I can assure you that you will either run out of time to finish them, or you won’t put that much effort into them. I usually start my exam notes from the beginning of semester. This way you’re reviewing each topic as you write up your notes every week, which is great exam revision! If you haven’t started formatting your exam notes yet, take my advice and do it now.
Seems pretty obvious, but make sure that you’re using correct headings. Have one for each topic that was covered in lectures, and then split that topic into subheadings for the different elements or defences, for example. Make sure that the headings and subheadings really stand out, so you can clearly identify where each topic and issue is in your notes.
Keep it clear
Use font that you can actually see, and not have to strain to read. It’s good that you want to keep your exam notes to a few pages, but you have to be able to read them quickly and easily in the exam for them to be of any assistance.
Don’t use too much detail in your notes as, this will just mean it takes you longer to read the information. And let’s face it; you really don’t have the time in an exam to be reading through huge chunks of text. By the time the exam comes around, you should already know the content, and your notes will serve a prompt, rather than a textbook. Use lists and/or dot points where you can.
These will make it so much easier when you’re trying to find information about a particular topic during an exam. That way, you won’t waste time flicking through the whole thing, just to have missed what you’re looking for in your haste, and have to start all over again. While it may seem like you have plenty of time, once you start writing your first exam answer, you’ll quickly realise that you actually don’t!
Use them before the exam
This is the biggest piece of advice I can give. Do practice problems and/or past exams (as many as you can get your hands on) and practice using your notes to answer the questions. This will help you to remember what’s in your notes (and where), and more importantly, will help you to discover what’s missing.
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