First Year Exams – how to prepare?
Although I was at Warwick on a different course last year, I decided to switch to Law in April 2018 so never actually took any exams that year. Just like everyone else in my cohort, I don’t know what to expect of the summer exam craze or how to best prepare for it. I have come up with a routine, however, based mainly on my exam experience from the IB, on the MELS exam from January and most importantly, on myself, my personality and study preferences. I thought I’d share my approach to preparing for these upcoming exams. I’ll make sure to make a post-exam reflection post on these techniques once I know how effective they are.
- Make a comprehensive overview of module syllabus
Some modules might already have a good overview of all the topics covered throughout the year but I think it’s useful to make your own, as a kind of checklist of everything you need to go over. It’s also an efficient way of making sure you don’t forget anything or pay an excessive amount of attention to a particular topic, whilst neglecting another.
- Scheduling and planning
For me, making a schedule stresses me out more than anything because I always struggle to stick to it. However, that’s not to say I don’t make one. I do because I really think that putting down on paper what you have to do helps me situate my progress and keeps me motivated. Here’s a picture of the one I made for the last three weeks of the break.
- Going off-schedule
Like I said, sticking to a schedule is really hard for me. In the past, I would really beat myself up over it and feel like I hadn’t accomplished what I was supposed to that day. Nowadays though, when I can’t stick to the schedule, I try to reflect on why that’s the case and make any necessary adjustments. For example, last week I was writing my legal theory essay and realised I spent too much time reading and researching and not enough time writing and actually putting pen to paper. So, I tried a new study hack, the art of setting timers!
- Setting timers
I recently discovered that this works really well for, especially when I’m working on something like an essay that can make you feel like the hours fly by without and the page is as blank as it was when you started. I try to divide up the work into different chunks and set an ambitious timer for every single one of them. For example, I aim to write 1000 words in 60 minutes. Although in reality, I end up writing only 600 words, that’s 600 more than I would have otherwise written and isn’t demoralizingly far off the target either.
- Work/life balance
Although I am a firm believer in hard and focused work, I know that it’s unsustainable to keep that up all day long. If I do that, I will burn out too early and actually lose motivation and focus “au moment suprême”, aka, when it’s time to take the actual exam! To avoid that, I really make an effort to plan time to work out, cook something nutritious (#brainfood) and relax. If, after dinner and working out I feel like I still have an hour in me, I’ll use it but if not, I stop and relax instead. Acing your exams is important but so is your physical and mental health. Try sure you figure out the best way for you to not sacrifice one over the other. I hope these tips can help you with your own studies. Remember, it’s all about figuring out what works best for you! Don’t be afraid to use a trial and error system; that’s what your first year at university is for. Good luck to you all!