Top Tips for Handling End-Of-Year Study Stresses

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing universities to change their exam guidelines, law students are likely to be feeling under pressure. How can they ensure that they're best prepared?

 As the end of the spring semester approaches, thoughts would usually be turning to forthcoming law exams. This year, to replace face-to-face exams, universities are using a range of different formats for their module assessments. This might involve open-book exams to be completed at home, more focus on coursework or even some form of online test. Whatever the format, end-of-year assessments are always stressful. Emma Jones, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Sheffield, shares some top tips for handling the stress.

1. Get the Right Information

The last few weeks have been stressful times for both staff and students with lots of changes being made to assessment formats, timings and pretty much everything else! You are probably getting lots of emails about all these changes. It is important to read these carefully, save them somewhere you can easily refer back to them again and perhaps even print them out to highlight key points to remember.

If there’s anything you aren’t sure about, it’s important to get in touch with your seminar tutor, module convenor or personal tutor to ask about it. It may take them a little longer to respond than usual, but be patient, they are dealing with lots of changes too.

2. Plan, Plan, Plan

As soon as you are given dates and details of any assessments, keep a careful record of these. It’s a good idea to use a calendar or diary to write all the dates/times in one place. Once you have this information, you should write out a plan, allocating times to work on each individual assessment.

If you have any deadlines close together, make sure you are starting well in advance to give yourself plenty of time and avoid a last minute rush.

As soon as you are given dates and details of any assessments, keep a careful record of these.

3. Stick to Your Routine

Once you have your plan, it’s important to stick to it. It can be hard to keep to a routine when you’re studying at home, but there are things you can do to make it easier. These include:

  • Get organised. Organising yourself a dedicated study space, whether it’s a table, desk or a whole room. Ideally, it should be somewhere you can set out your books and materials and work without being disturbed.
  • Remove distractions! Switch off your mobile phone, hide the television remote, close the blind and shut your gaming system in a cupboard to give yourself the best possible chance to focus.
  • Give yourself incentives. If you stick to the plan for a day, reward yourself with a telephone call to a friend, a walk in the fresh air or even a cup of tea and a biscuit.
  • Ask your friends and family to help. Even if you’re not with them at present, you could still ask them to check-in via text, telephone or social media to see how you’re doing with your studies and keep you on track.

4. Join In With Online Teaching and Support Sessions

Most Law Schools are now offering some form of online teaching and support, whether it’s online lectures and seminars, discussion boards and forums, online meetings with staff, or some mixture of these. They are designed to help you achieve your goals, so it is important to make the most of them. If you can’t join in a particular seminar or session, find out if it’s being recording and listen to that. Even if you don’t feel up to posting on a forum, you can still read what others have said. Having said that, do join in and contribute as much as you are able to do so – it will make the activities more engaging and interactive for everyone.

5. Use Your Online Library

Most university libraries have great online collections, including databases such as Lexis Library, Westlaw and Lawtel for primary sources such as cases and legislation. They will also have subscriptions to a wide range of law (and other) journals and are likely to have online copies of lots of core textbooks too. If you are trying to locate information for your assignments, remember to make your university library your first port of call. It’s important not to rely on google or Wikipedia or similar if you want to produce your best academic work.

6. Pace Yourself

When it’s time to tackle your assessments, don’t try to work 24/7 on them. If you are given a specific time period to write them in, then that period will have been calculated to give you more than enough time to finish your work and build in breaks and rest periods. Aim for working for a certain period of time (say, 45 minutes) then building in a break. This will give your mind time to refresh itself. If you are working at a laptop and computer it’s also important to do some physical movement and rest your eyes regularly.

7. Look After Your Wellbeing

Although end-of-year assessments are important, your wellbeing is more important. This is a difficult and challenging time for everyone and it is vital that you realise this and be kind to yourself, as well others. If you are struggling, do reach out to family and friends. Your university support services are also likely to be able to provide support and guidance.

So, organise your time and space, take advantage of the resources and support available, ask for help when you need it and, most importantly, look after yourself.

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