Exam Success

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Hello all. I know that it has been a while since I last wrote to you, but rest assured I am still kicking and screaming my way into becoming a solicitor, and it starts with exams. I thought I should write to you all, since the exams are fast approaching, about some study tips you might find useful in these last few weeks of exam preparation. I have broken them down into four key areas – my strategy for exam success.

Time management

Managing your time effectively is going to be key to your success in the exam. Not only does it mean managing your revision time wisely, but also the time you have in the exam.

So for managing your revision time, it might be a good idea to create a revision timetable. Many of you will be doing more than one exam this month, so you want to make sure you give each module enough of your attention, no matter how far or close apart they may be. I am using a colour coded timeline which shows me what modules I should be revising on each day, and exactly when my exams are coming.

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It is so important to make sure that your modules are evenly spread apart (see Week 1) so that you are constantly recapping what you have learnt. This will ensure that you retain as much of the detail as possible. Also, be sure to take into account how well you understand the topics when allocating your time to your modules.

As for timing in the exam, your module tutors should provide you with rough guidance. But as I said, this is rough guidance and your ability in the exam will much depend on: what you know; how well you know it; and ultimately, how fast you can write. On that note, it is certainly a good idea to conduct your own little mock exam and see how well you can manage your time.

Technical ability

Law, as with many subjects, is certainly a technical subject. Examiners can tell when students memory dumb, and they do not like it as it shows little engagement with the module’s learning outcomes. If you want to score well in the exam, you really need to focus on your technical ability.

This includes not only understanding the legal rules, but how they apply in the scenario. Lecturers constantly emphasise on application because this is the only way they can see that you understand how the rules work. You can pick this up by reading through judgments, case facts, looking at similar cases which cite those judgments.

Good application

Weak application

The defence of loss of control is not available where there is a considered desire for revenge (s.54(4) Coroners & Justice Act 2009).

The fact that Sandra had bought the weapon on the day of the killing could suggest that she had a considered desire for revenge, and the court would have to take this into account (Ballie).

The defence of loss of control is not available where there is a considered desire for revenge (s.54(4) Coroners & Justice Act 2009).

Therefore Sandra may not have the defence because of the knife (Ballie).

I have learnt first-hand that being able to remember all of the relevant sections of the Coroners and Justice Act is, albeit very impressive, not enough to get you the top marks in the exam. Do not be discouraged to apply the law to the facts if you are pressed for time; you simply have to make the link between the law and the facts.

Information retention

 Many students, including myself, struggle to remember all of the little details. Lucky as we are that we do not need to remember the citation for every case – we still need to remember the case. Have you tried remembering Hirji Mulji v Cheong Yue or Tsakiroglou v Noblee Thorl GmbH?

Being able to show a balance of good application and accurate citation is part of the crusade of doing well in the exam. Therefore, you need to find ways that help you retain information.

Have you tried?

  • Coloured paper
  • Flow charts and mind maps
  • Flash cards
  • Audio recordings
  • Teaching your friends

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You should also enjoy the advances in technology – far disconnected from what our senior lecturers had ‘back in’t day’. There are some brilliant online resources out there, as well as the SmartArt tools in Microsoft Office and the voice recorder built in on most mobile phones.

Social life

Many students think that exams are a one-time thing and once they are over it will be all plain sailing. This is not true – throughout the rest of your career, be it legal or not, your employer is going to expect you to be able to maintain that work life balance. Having witnessed people who are very close to me go through this exact struggle, I am brave enough to assert that there is a real possibility that you may graduate into a career in which all seems to be ‘work work work work work work’.  It leaves you feeling empty and unfulfilled, and could even spark a ‘quarter life crisis’.

So at this stage, whilst you are a student, I urge you to use this time whilst you can to test out your limits and figure out where that line in your work-life balance falls. From my personal perspective, having a medical condition which creates symptoms that are aggravated by stress, I know just how important it is to take a break now and then.

Sure, we all want to make it to Allen & Overy and DLA Piper, but we are all human at the end of the day. So take a break – and if now is not the time, make it your incentive to be really productive now whilst you can. But also you have to be honest with yourself, because going for a drink or two with friends the night before the exam is not going to be helpful.

Conclusion

I hope you found my advice useful, and if you have any useful tips you would like to share, just post them in the comments below.

I wish every one of you the best of luck in the upcoming exams. To all those legal professionals who took the time to read this article, I hope it was a nice walk down memory lane for you.

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