So it’s about four weeks until the start of exams and you’re four weeks behind on readings? Don’t panic! Your fate is not yet sealed. Here are three things you can do to catch up and brighten your exam time prospects…
It’s tempting to skip the remaining classes of semester and use the time to instead study alone and/or wallow in self-doubt. But these final lectures of the semester are the most important ones as lecturers and tutors drop exam hints these classes. Attending class could also save you study time, as lecturers will often make an announcement about which topics are examinable. Also, at this point in the semester your tutors may be more inclined to answer exam-preparation questions and offer guidance on exam approach and technique for specific topics.
Use study aids
If you’ve left it late, don’t try to create all of your subject outlines from scratch. Make use of study aids such as Nutshells, Law Briefs, Essentials and Q&A books, but beware that the content in these guides will not follow your specific syllabus, so only make use of the relevant sections.
Better yet, your law students’ society at uni might offer topic summaries or exam guides. These often contain wisdom from past high-performing students, and may have structures that you can use to complete your own notes.
Don’t forget that in the end it’s not about how good your notes are, but rather how well you know and use them. Ultimately you should write your own outlines, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use existing notes and guides as a helpful reference.
Do Practice Problems
Knowing the law inside out won’t necessarily get you a good mark in an exam. You need to be able to communicate your knowledge to the examiner. The best way to achieve that is by practicing how to answer exam questions. Learning the IRAC method (or indeed any other problem solving structure) is only the starting point. To truly grasp the steps and nuances involved in answering exam questions, you need to practice answering as many past questions as possible.
Don’t let the lack of availability of sample exam answers discourage you from attempting the questions, as the process makes you to use (and learn) your notes. As mentioned before, having great notes is not going to save you from not knowing how to use them; doing practice exam problems is the best way to test your notes for usability and yourself for understanding.
Exams are an opportunity for you to communicate to the examiner how much you have learnt during the semester. If you have been attending classes and doing (some of) the readings, you will likely have absorbed more than you think. So don’t panic, and keep persevering – you’re almost there.
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