Friday, December 5, 2008

Exam Success Tip #5: Stop Stressing

Around this time of year, the library fills with 1Ls who are dreading their first law school exams. (Upper-class students are also not immune to this end-of-semester anxiety, even though they have a better idea of what to expect.) During the last week of classes, we're devoting the Goodson Blogson to library tips for exam success. This is the last tip of the week; click "Older Posts" to view the rest of the series.

Tip #5. Stop Stressing!

We know, we know--telling a law student to relax is easier said than done. Some law students might even view their stress as a motivating force. However, for the majority of students, anxiety is an obstacle which makes exam season even more difficult. As Duke Law begins the Reading and Examination Period, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Last month, Amy L. Jarmon, Assistant Dean for Academic Success at Texas Tech, published a thoughtful article in the ABA’s Student Lawyer magazine on the topic of stress reduction for law students. Jarmon’s common-sense tips, which are often forgotten in the hectic exam period, include:
  • No all-nighters! Get a full night’s sleep and resist the temptation to “make up” extra hours of sleep over the weekend. Keep your sleep schedule consistent to avoid feeling overtired. (We add: Just because you have 24-hour access to the library doesn’t mean you have to use it. Your roommates and/or pets and/or houseplants probably miss you.)
  • Eat healthy. Avoid the temptations of fast food, energy drinks, and high-calorie snacks. Instead, take a break to prepare a larger quantity of healthy meals over the weekend, and freeze them for use throughout the week. (We suggest: assemble a team of like-minded friends to each trade a serving from different recipes, so that you’re not eating poached chicken for five days in a row. Should you ever forget your lunch, there’s always the Refectory CafĂ© in the Star Commons, which offers a variety of fresh and healthy salads and sandwiches.)
  • Sneak in some exercise. Jarmon suggests such subtle self-deception as parking farther away and opting to take the stairs, in order to squeeze in the recommended 30 minutes of exercise at least 3 days a week. (We note: Most Duke Law students already trek from the Chemistry lot, and probably do opt for the stairs instead of our notoriously slow elevators. You might just force yourself to take a gym break, or a long walk.)
  • Prioritize your studies. Jarmon first outlines five common study scenarios which increase stress (e.g., you’re way behind in reading; you haven’t yet started an outline; etc.) and offers common-sense solutions for tackling each.
If you’re a member of the ABA’s Law Student division, you can view Jarmon's full article at (ABA username and password required). If not, you can obtain the full text from the General OneFile database (this link will work on-campus, or off-campus if you have already logged in with EZproxy).

To Jarmon's tips, we would also emphasize the importance of making time for the outside world: one evening of fun won't mean the difference between passing and failure. Call a friend or family member who is neither a law student nor a lawyer; talk about something other than your studies. Go see a movie which does not feature lawyer characters. Pick up a novel; go shopping; try a new restaurant. Put aside law school for a few hours, and you'll be ready to pick up where you left off the next day.

Above all, try to remember that you know more than you think you do. Good luck to all of our students on exams!