So this is it: mid-semester exams. A time for reflection on the whirlwind introduction to whatever topsy-turvy law subject you're doing this semester. Also known as the week before you let loose too soon and down a strong vodka orange (or ten). But as those vodka oranges are still some time away, it's probably best for you to know now that there are five stages of sitting a law exam.
You can do no more. You’ve done the readings ten times, re-done the tutorial questions and spammed your lecturer and tutor so many times via email that it’s bordering on harassment. Now you’re outside the exam room, permitted materials held tightly in your clammy palm, and that eerie calm comes over you. Que sera sera, isn’t it? There is a strong feeling of unity as you and the rest of your cohort band together and march into the room, like William Wallace leading the Scots into battle. You’re either feeling very prepared or very defeated but either way, the exam is about to begin.
Writing time begins and this stage of the exam can go one of two ways:
a. You can know exactly what the question is asking, what precedents to apply and the name of that ambiguous case that was only mentioned in the footnote of the textbook. You’ve got this.
b. Alternatively, you can know nothing, and might even look up to make sure you’re actually in the right exam room. You look around at your peers, at the clock, at anything except the paper in the hope that the answer may miraculously come to you. When nothing happens, you resort to staring at the page blankly, writing down random pieces of law you think might be relevant. This is going to be a long two hours.
Regardless of how stage 2 goes, eventually you get into a rhythm. Head down, writing at a steady pace (until stage 4), pausing only to think over your notes in your head. Of all the stages of the exam, this is the one where you feel most confident – answer the parts you know, gloss over the parts you don’t.
“There are 30 minutes remaining in this exam. You are not permitted to leave the exam room”.
Where did that time go? Half an hour to go, and you haven’t even reached the last question. You haphazardly conclude the question you’re working on and move on to the last one – most likely, the one you know least about. Those 30 minutes fly and before you know it, you’re wrist has fully cramped up but you don’t notice – you’re too busy scribbling down everything you can remember about the topic in the hope that some of it, ANY of it, applies to the question.
And then it’s over. That’s it! You’re done. This is often marked with a heavy sigh, and a tender clutching and rotating of your wrist which has by now lost all feeling. The supervisors collect your paper (sometimes with an encouraging smile, other times with a disconcerting grunt) and you wait at your desk until you here those blissful last words – “you may leave”.