Monday, October 31, 2005

Scary Days Ahead!

It seems fitting on Halloween to discuss every student's greatest fear:  EXAMS!!!!!!!!  They're coming and they're coming soon.  Here at Suffolk, classes will end almost immediately after Thanksgiving.  The cruel irony of this scheduling is that Thanksgiving becomes more like a prisoner's last supper than a fun family-filled holiday (I'll refrain from comments on how rarely fun and family-filled go together...).  But I digress.

This is the time of year when I start telling students to create an "exam plan." TM What is an exam plan TMWell, essentially it is an exercise in calendar reading and planning.  I tell students, "check the exam schedule, find out when your exams are and plan to study accordingly."  I also tell them to put it in writing because they are more likely to follow it that way (a trick I learned from Weight Watchers, but sadly the only one...).  Students do not really know where their time is going until they have spent a week chronicling how it has been spent.  But it is also an exercise that requires some time to think about how each student can study effectively and efficiently.

I assure students that they know themselves better than I do.  They also have studied in the past (one hopes...).  Therefore, they should know their limitations, that is:  how long can they spend studying one subject before they feel like their head is going to explode or that they wish the windows in the library would open.  I ask students to think about how they learn: are they visual learners?  Oral/verbal learners?  They should then tailor their outlines and other study aids to accommodate their learning style.

I also think that the fear of the unknown can be held at bay when you have a strategy.  1-Ls are frightened by the prospect of law school exams mainly because they don't know what their professors are expecting from them.  I often advise students to look at old exams, try to answer the questions and then make an appointment to see their professors with the answers they have come up with, but very few students do this.  Perhaps they are intimidated, but I've always thought that more information is better than less and I try to really coerce students into getting some feedback before exams rather than just hoping and praying that they do "get it."  The time that grades are posted is the wrong time to find out that you didn't understand the material.

And some control over the situation is better than none.  If all students sought the information available to them (and it is out there at varying levels), they would find exams not exactly a treat, but certainly not a trick.

By the way, "exam plan" is not a trademarked phrase, but is masquerading as intellectual property for Halloween.  Nifty costume, eh? (ezs)

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