[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]
Well folks, here we are at the end of the semester. You have read and read until you thought you could read no more, but you did it. Now, it’s time for some last-minute suggestions to read.
The week before:
1. Get your flu shot
Ok, this is only tangentially related to taking exams, but the flu is no joke and law school is a germ cesspool with everyone in close quarters and stress-compromised immune systems. Chances are you can get it at school for practically or literally nothing. Please, I beg of you. Get your flu shot.
2. Stop Comparing yourself
We all want to know if our outline is adequate and to gauge if we know as much as our peers, but this strategy tends to be counterproductive. We all work at different paces and with different methods, so the data you gather and use for comparison will inevitably be misleading.
Everything about law school is built to tell you that your success is relative to your peers’ success. As problematic as that system is, and as gross of a culture as it creates, it likely isn’t going to change in the near future. So it’s up to you to take steps to guard yourself against the anxiety inherent in the system.
Do some research on how to ace exams. Set goals for yourself in terms of what you would like to accomplish leading up to the exam, and trust that your preparation will serve you well.
3. Get Some Rest
I know this is my schtick, but only because it’s true. Make sure you are getting enough sleep not only the night before your exams, but the weeks leading up as well. Your brain needs it. Really. It does.
On exam day:
All of our school’s exams are at 2:00 pm, which is awesome for me because that is my most alert time of the day. I feel for those of you who are in your afternoon slump at 2:00 pm though, so here is my fifth-grade-EOG advice for you:
1. Eat a complex breakfast and HYDRATE
I’ve written before about what a huge fan of rituals I am. I am also a huge fan of food, so this semester I am going to experiment with an exam day breakfast ritual – something that feels festive, but still has a little bit of protein, some carbs, and a lot of water. If you choose something festive, let me know!
2. Deep breathe
Diaphragmatic breathing lowers your heart rate and blood pressure and can flip your anxious lizard brain back into a human brain. To do it, sit with both feet on the floor, one hand on your chest, and one on your belly. While you are breathing in, imagine that you are blowing up a balloon under the hand that’s on your belly. Breathe in for three, hold for one, breathe out for three.
3. If you have a study ritual, implement it.
You obviously won’t be able to implement every facet of it, but any memory trigger you can activate will help spark those deep archives in your marvelous brain.
Most importantly, remember that you are a whole and magnificent being regardless of how you do on exams. You may not do as well as you hope, and that may force you to reassess your goals, but your grade on an exam is not actually an indicator of your future ability as a lawyer, nor is it an indicator of your worth as a human.