Life after the finals

By ivan2006 in NYU - Class of 2007 on Dec 27, 2006

Dear all:

Finally the exam period is over, and I call tell you that as hard as it can look in the first week of exams, everybody manages to survive… Personally speaking, I have been studying hard since Halloween, and harder after Thanksgiving – and still, on the eve of an important exam, you wish you had one more day to review it all… A good planning helps, of course (for instance, I have seen some friends of mine who had started to study for the exams on Thanksgiving in a state of absolute desperation in the days preceding the exams), but it is no guarantee of success, for the following reasons: 1) Here at NYU, you don´t have a break after the end of classes to study for the exams – you finish your classes on Friday and you may have your first exam next Monday -, so you cannot decide to forget about the upcoming classes and focus on the previous stuff. You have to work hard preparing your classes until the very end, and you should start reviewing the materials as well. As you can imagine, this is a lot of work… 2) You may have read the books in advance, but you are learning so many things that after a couple of weeks you may have forgotten the minor (yet important) details … And it happened to me more than once: I even ran across some old notes of mine about an issue that I completely forgot… And then I thought: jeez, I was supposed to know that! But it happens – sometimes you cannot remember everything… Let me summarize briefly some important things to know about the exams:

1)Have good outlines – even though you may think you have it all under control by having a good book, sometimes you have only a couple of days to review it all, and you may be tired after studying for other exams and writing papers. Obviously, this is not the best scenario to start reading 300 pages… So here is my advice: spend more time preparing the classes and make some decent word document summarizing your readings. Then, at class, take notes that complement your first outline. At the end of the term, you will just have to print it – and voilà, you have a good summary of the book and the comments of your professor. You will not have to read everything again, and you will study the most important issues in less time.

2)The most important thing about an exam is finishing it – if you think an exam should measure your knowledge, you have a point from a theoretical standpoint; however, reality is different. What you will find most of the times are exams that are extremely long and made for you not to finish it. So if you know all those beautiful theories that you are dying to explain in your exam, forget about it. You may lose time in one single question that prevents you to finish the other ones, and no matter how good you do the first one, you will not be able to get the grade you deserve if you don´t finish it all. So here´s my piece of advice: in your exam, you will find some recommendations about the suggested completion time of each question – follow them. And if you are wasting too much time in one question and the suggested time elapses, move ahead – it will be more efficient for you from a grading perspective.

3)The curve: friend or enemy? – Obviously, if you had studied hard enough to pretend to get an A or A- (don´t fool yourselves, it is not easy at all), the curve will not help you. Approximately 20% of your class may get an A or A-. It sounds like a lot of people, isn´t it? But it is not. Suppose you are in a class with 50 people, and only 10 will be able to the so desired A. You may know a lot, and you may be quite smart – but unless you´re a genius, everyone here will be as smart and as hard-working as you, and for the purposes of the curve, they are your direct competitors. So even if you score 90% of the exam, if there are 10 people who score a better grade, you will not get an A… It is a practical example of how the curve may screw you. On the other hand, if you are in the bottom side of the class, the curve may help you to get a B, even though your grade (in absolute terms) is no big deal… In that case, the curve is your friend.

4)A take-home exam is no “sure thing” – sometimes, you may have take-home exams. Your first (and comprehensible) reaction is to think that you will have plenty of time to do the exam, and then you can go to the movies and have a couple of beers with your friends. Unfortunately, it is not like this. Take-home exams require a lot of time, and most of the people who take them usually have to spend all the time available working on it. So if you have a 24-hours take-home exam, get ready: you will probably use at least 18-20 hours in it, which means that in a “best case” scenario you will have 4-6 hours of sleep that day…

5)It ain´t over till it´s over – And when you finish the exam, the first thing that crosses your mind is to spend nice holidays with family and friends, and to forget about the LLM for some time. But then, you will start receiving e-mails about your first assignments for the Spring term, and then you realize it´s not over yet. In my case, I have 4 videos of 2 hours each to watch before my first class… and I´ve just learned that the textbook for one of the courses I took is a 4-volume book… But I am not complaining: I may be tired after a long period of exams, but – hey, this is what we are here for, isn´t it? To study and to learn. Right now, while I am preparing myself to watch the first video, I repeat these words to myself like a mantra…

Happy holidays to all of you!

Comments

jhon, Mar 11, 2007 09:20

Please write to us more

Aurelius, Feb 22, 2007 14:38

Good advice indeed! Good luck with your llm!

pinkcauldr..., Jan 08, 2007 05:30

Hi. Thank you very much for that detailed account! It really helps prospective students to know what to expect. Looking forward to your next blog entry. All the best for the rest of your LLM.

schnauzer, Jan 03, 2007 03:46

Dear NYU blogger, good advice! I'm right there with you and wish you the best for the spring semester! Peace, Droit

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