Pre-exams: The Stress and Anxiety by @fizzymoon86

By Karen Salt @fizzymoon86

(wrote in August)

Exams…we’ve all had to endure them throughout school, so surely at 26 I should be prepared for all of the stress, crying, hair-pulling, paper-ripping anxiety that goes along with them? Funnily enough, it appears that I am no more prepared at 26 than I was at 16 and revising for my GCSEs.

I’ve had more than 10 years to perfect my revision tactics and methods so as to divide my time equally between subjects and learn as much as possible in the time available. So why, with less than two weeks to go until exams do I still end up flapping about with practically nothing done? I honestly cannot answer this question (nor any exam question for that matter!) and I think this is something that I am just going to have to accept!

On the LPC I’ve already sat quite a few exams: business law, wills, interviewing, advocacy and solicitors’ accounts. At this point I feel the need to crow about my accounts result which I received a few weeks ago – 92%! I know, I’m shocked too! This is the highest result I’ve ever had in an exam since I took a written Grade 5 Music Theory exam when I was about 18 and scored 91%. So you can imagine my shock and obvious delight at receiving such a result on this course. My elated feeling was also enhanced on the day I received this result by the fact that I was on holiday in Greece at the time and was already in a pretty happy relaxed state. Picture this…the sun is shining, its 40 degrees, the view from the house is panoramic of clear blue sea as far as the eye can see..Well you get the idea. I don’t want to make you all too jealous.

Anyway, I digress…now what was I talking about? Ah yes, exams. Perhaps the reason I am having trouble revising is that I am so easily distracted? Nah can’t be! Interesting thought though. I wonder if I should make a cup of tea now…no, focus!

The problem I have with revising for the LPC exams is that they are all open book. This is a very deceptive concept, luring one into a false sense of security that all answers will be at the fingertips, negating the need for revision. This could not be more wrong. The business law exam in February has proven this point to me. Those of you who have sat College of Law exams will understand what I am saying. Going into these exams thinking that they will be easy because they are open book is definitely not the right attitude to have. Yes it is easier because you don’t have to worry about having to regurgitate everything in your brain down onto the paper as we did with our law degree exams, but having the books there is only one part of the exam. The LPC is about applying the law, not just knowing the law. So it’s all very well having the books there, and folders and notes and goodness knows that else we’re allowed to take in, but if you can’t apply the law to the scenario, well there’s just no point. It’s all about practice…hence Legal Practice Course. Clever eh?

So with two weeks to go until exams, my head is in such a state with worrying about the exams that I could barely string a sentence together, never mind revise 4 whole areas of law.

My upcoming exams are as follows:

  • Tuesday 14th – Professional Conduct 2 hours 20 minutes
  • Wednesday 15th – Criminal Law and Practice 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Thursday 16th – Civil Litigation and Dispute Resolution 3.5 hours
  • Friday 17th – Property Law and Practice 4 hours 5 minutes

Ouch. Can you feel my pain? I know I can.

It’s not that I haven’t revised at all, because I have. I have been revising pretty much constantly for weeks leading up to the exams, I even revised on holiday in Greece! If that’s not dedication I don’t know what is. However, either due to my terrible revision methods, or perhaps my head just isn’t working properly, nothing seems to have been absorbed at all. A lot of people have responded to my worries with, “Oh, I bet you know more than you think,” or, “It will all come back to you in the exam.”

I don’t mean to be rude and shoot down these lovely positive statements which are obviously meant to make me feel better, but…well, they’re wrong. Nobody can quite understand the stress of taking LPC exams until they are there. It is a whole new level of stress that can’t be fully understood unless you have actually lived it. I’m sure the same goes for courses like the BPTC and the PCGE as well because I have friends who have taken these exams and have expressed exactly the same sentiments around exam time.

You know that feeling that takes over your body just before having to do something you really don’t want to do, like a nerve-wracking interview or doctors appointment, or more specifically to myself, getting on a plane? Well that’s the feeling I have had every day for about two weeks before exam week, getting progressively worse. In psychology this is the Fight or Flight response – the body’s reaction to being faced with something it fears. I tend to lean more toward the ‘flight’ than the ‘fight’ to be honest and would very much like to run away and hide from these exams. However, as with getting on a plane or anything else that scares us, we just have to take a deep breath and do it.

Will it be worth it? Who knows, but I’ll never know unless I try. And I haven’t signed up for an expensive professional course just to run away and hide from it. I signed up for this course because I want to be a solicitor and in the end that will make all of this anxiety worth it. Hopefully.

So as much as it pains me, and believe me it’s painful, these exams have to be done so I had better get my ‘fight’ face on.

To be continued with my post-exam views…

Karen Salt, 2012

All material subject to Copyright © Gary Lee Walters and StretLaw®, 2007-2012 (unless otherwise stated) All Rights Reserved.

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Founder/editor-in-chief @Stret_Law, search twitter: #StretLaw . Contributing author: @thebarrister , @crimlawjustice & columnist @theadvocatenews. All opinions mine, unless otherwise stated.
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