Exam Tips and Tricks


Exams are upon us once again, and as many scramble to catch up on months worth of material, others seem content with mere revision and a few practices questions.

Everyone has their own method of studying which suits their particular lifestyle. However, around this time numerous others become experts at stress and anxiety. But fear not, relax, take a breath and check out these helpful exam tips and tricks.

No one knows you, better than YOU

Before you decide to dedicate hours of your time to studying or going to the library there are a few things to keep in mind.

Are you an early bird, or a night owl?

Being aware of what time of the day you function best is critical to productive learning. Do not force yourself to wake up early or stay up late if you know that you will not work at your best.

Naps are not just for toddlers!

Rest is essential for the body to function properly. Lack of sleep can cause you to become miserable and inefficient, it can also be very dangerous to your health. Of course, we have to put in the extra hours to catch up on our studies, but going days without adequate sleep is counter-productive.

Nutrition is the mission!

Similar to sleep, we need food to survive. However, excess junk food can make us sluggish, tired and sick. Enjoy your snacks, but moderation is key. Nuts such as unsalted cashews or walnuts are a good source of energy along with other healthy alternatives like fruit such as apples, oranges, grapes, and mangoes. Remember to keep hydrated; your body needs water.

Ask for help, your classmates are your family!

The Faculty of Law prides itself on the family-like bond we form with each other. You cannot do it all on your own; the work can be overwhelming so do not be afraid to ask your colleagues for help. Form study groups with your friends where possible. You can even be in multiple groups if you see fit. If you work better alone, that is fine too, but engage in discussions, and talk to your classmates about troublesome topics.

Music soothes the brain!

Many of us work well with music. Your general preference for music is fine, but when studying try and listen to non-verbal music. Instrumentals, classical, jazz and even mood-music can set a nice environment for studying. You won’t focus on the lyrics of the song, but rather the instrumentation. YouTube provides numerous music for this; simply type ‘study music’ into the search tab.

Comfort is for convenience not laziness!

Many of us like to study in our beds or on a couch. Though this may be comfortable, you may run the risk of becoming too relaxed. Sitting around a table can simulate better blood flow and provide a more attentive and productive study session. It is also helpful to know if you work better at school in the library, or at home. Home may provide many distractions and thus, the library may be more appropriate. Do what works best for you.

Cases, Cases, Cases!

Ensure that you have cases and the relevant legislation to support your argument. If you simply regurgitate the information from the textbooks or from lectures, you will not do as well as you could. You must show good analytical skills by illustrating contrasting views and making sure that you clearly show which argument you support as the better view. Try to place your cases in topical order to assist in remembering them.

Hard copy or Soft copy readings?

We have access to many online articles, journals and books. It is also much cheaper and possibly easier for you to simply just read from your computer, tablet or phone. However, many people prefer having a hard copy so they can make jottings and highlight crucial information. It depends on your personal preference but a mixture of the two may suit you well.

Time yourself, don’t waste time on irrelevant information!

Practice as many past paper questions as you think is adequate. You should familiarize yourself with proper spelling and appropriate grammar. This ensures that you do not misuse words or waste time trying to think of the proper way to articulate your point during the exam.

Taking the exam

The day for sitting the examination has come and all of your work will be put into practice. This means that you must take into consideration the following:

Time and Venue

Ensure that you know the correct day, time, and location of all your exams well in advance. Do not run the risk of arriving for a 9:00am exam at 1:00pm. Make sure you know the venue so there is no confusion on the day and no rush to find where the exam is being held.

The 5 Minute prelude

Try to read the whole paper before you start. Fill out all the sheets before the exam begins with the relevant information so you do not have to rush to do it at the end. Once the exam has begun, spend 3 -5 minutes writing down your main points, cases, legislation and the key terms you may want to incorporate. This will serve as a quick reference for the structure of your essay and to help you remember the crucial things to include. It also helps to organize your thoughts.

Read carefully, answer accordingly

Look out for words like, analyse, discuss, examine and advise. These instructions determine the structure of your answer. Keep this in mind while writing so you do not stray from what the question asks. Ask yourself, is this information relevant to the issue at hand? Do not give unnecessary definitions and extensive background information if it is not required.

Just relax, you ARE ready

Try and relax before the exam begins. Arrive a few minutes early and take time to ease your mind. You can say a little prayer, breath in and out while counting to ten, or simply close your eyes and visualize yourself writing the paper. You have done as much preparation as you could. It makes no sense to second-guess yourself and wish you did more. Focus on what you know and what you are doing at the moment.

When the exam is over, you may feel the urge to discuss the questions with your friends. This can cause you to second-guess yourself and to become stressed out about whether what you wrote was correct. You STILL have more exams to complete. Focus on the next ones and do not let yourself be distracted by something that is already finished and that you have no control over.

© John Abel 2013


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