Revising and writing your exams

There are some people who have the apparent and annoying ability to sail through law exams without any hiccups; it is easy to suppose such people have particular aptitude. However it isn’t necessarily so the key difference between those who do well in exams and those who don’t is the attitude within which exams are approached. Those who approach them in a purposeful way tend to treat them like a job or work to be done rather than something to fear. So slaying the monster does not begin with assessing your aptitude but with your attitude.

The process of revision for law exams is a series of phases. The first is the reduction phase. People differ in the way they approach this. Many people start by producing a condensed form of their lecture notes. For some people this works because they assimilate the information as they write their notes. Others find that purchasing or getting ‘’professionally’’ produced revision notes works just as well and means they need not waste time with laborious writing.

The first time you read anything you are likely to retain only 30% of its content but by the time you have read it three times or more you are likely to retain as high as 80% to a possible 100%. You have to find out what works for you but if time is limited you may be better off with a good revision guide.

Next is the read through phase. Assuming you have decided how you are approaching the subject or unit course on which you are going to be examined, you need to actually read. You can read through your class notes, your condensed revision note, from a textbook or a law report.

Then there is the recollection phase. This is the point at which you try to remember everything you have read. It is helpful when you take small notes in a note book to help you recall all the important things you have read. Start the recollection process early in your revision so that you become used to the exercise of mentally recapping the topic area. Never be discouraged if you can’t recall much to begin with.

The past paper phase is the next. When you have completed the read through and recollection stage of revision of revision, start looking at past papers. At first use them to spot the issue raised by the questions and work out brief skeleton answers in note form. Do not try to write a complete answer. Do this repeatedly with lots of different questions.

Next is the collective phase. By this stage you are already starting to tire of the grind of repetition, but persevere. This is a good time to do some joint revision with friends and fellow students. Other students are likely to find the revision as isolating as you do so they will look forward to the mutual assistance joint revision can offer.

Lastly there is the countdown phase. As you head for the exam date try to tackle the issue of timing. The best way is to try and write the question in the least amount of time possible. The night before the exam prepare your equipment and avoid last minute revision. It creates anxiety which is not good for the exam atmosphere. Get a good night’s sleep. Don’t be anxious. Don’t panic. Anxiety and panic disrupt sleep.

In the examination room, read through the whole question paper at least twice before selecting your choice questions. Make sure you identify any compulsory questions. Decide which questions you will answer and divide the examination time equally between them, leaving enough time at the end of your of the examination to read over your answers.

Stick to the amount of time you have allocated to each question. This is because you will earn most of your marks in the first 70% of your answer. There is no advantage to be gained by spending more time on one question than another.

Always answer the question asked, not the one you wish had been asked. If you are asked to ‘’advise’’ a client make sure you conclude with what the client should do. Law exams can be a downhill task and chances are that you did the best of your ability and hence you should reward yourself with a good book on the part of law that interests you most.

This article appears in our newsletter, The Deuteronomy of June 24th, 2016


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