Tuesday, December 6, 2011
During final exams, there are several things you can do to make this time period less stressful and more productive. Here are some suggestions:
Promote a positive attitude. You were admitted to law school because your law school thinks you can succeed at this endeavor. Law school is demanding, but you can do this – keep the faith about your abilities. If you are having trouble staying positive, try the following:
- Post inspirational quotes or scriptures around your apartment so you see them in every room.
- Give yourself pep talks during the day – emphasize that you can succeed.
- Visualize yourself sitting in your exams and knowing the answers to every question.
- Avoid other students who are negative and instead spend time with students who are upbeat.
- Remember that you are still the same talented, successful, outstanding person you were when you walked into your law school for the first time.
Keep grades in perspective. You do not need 100% for an A in law school. Students receive A grades in some courses with only 70% of the possible points on the exam. You have approximately 90 credits in your law degree (more or less depending on your school). One course is a very small percentage of those grades. Remember that C and C+ grades are respectable in law school – you are not a failure if you receive these grades. After this semester, you can evaluate your study skills and improve your grades. The academic support/success office at your law school can help you become a better student.
Lower your stress by taking care of yourself. Do not succumb to the temptation to pull all-nighters, survive on caffeine and junk food, or ignore any illness.
- Lack of sleep is one of the main reasons why students perform poorly on exams that they studied for diligently. You cannot focus and get on paper what you know if you are not well-rested and alert. An extra hour of sleep will do you more good than an extra hour of studying.
- Eat nutritious meals. Your body and brain need energy for the “heavy lifting” they need to do. Sit down and eat a full meal rather than standing at the sink and gulping down your food. Eat real food rather than junk food or highly processed meals.
- Get exercise during the exam period. Spend at least 30 minutes at some activity several times during the week. Walking, sit-ups, yoga, running, or whatever will help you expend the stress built up in your body. It doesn’t have to be grueling, it just has to be active.
- If you are ill, get medical attention. Do not let your illness worsen because you don’t want to take the time to see a doctor. You will not perform at your best in an exam if you are sick.
Take some breaks so your brain can rest and continue filing what you have learned. You need breaks to renew your focus and ability to learn. Every 90 minutes take at least a 10 minute break. Every 3-4 hours take at least 30 minutes – 1 hour for a break. As you do more and more studying, you may well need breaks more frequently as your brain gets overloaded and tired. If you cannot absorb anything more, take off at least 2-3 hours before trying to study any additional time.
Eat breakfast or lunch before your exams. Do not go to a morning exam without eating any breakfast. Do not go to an afternoon exam without eating any lunch. Your body and brain need fuel. Eat lightly and cautiously if you tend to get nervous, but still eat.
Do light review the night before a morning exam or the morning before an afternoon exam. Heavy-duty studying during these times will likely increase your stress rather than your learning. Pace yourself in studying so that you can just read through your outline again and do some relatively easy practice questions in these time periods. Think of these times as “warm up” exercises before the big match.
If at all possible, take time off after an exam. If your exam schedule allows it, take the rest of the day off and start up again the next morning. At minimum take off 2-3 hours after an exam before you go back to studying. You will be more productive with a break after the stress of an exam.
Good luck on exams to all law students out there ! (Amy Jarmon)