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LIV President's Blog 2012

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Six steps to recover from exam disappointment

Six steps to recover from exam disappointment

Pressure is inherent in the legal profession and it begins with law exams at university. Many students struggle under external and internal pressures to meet academic expectations. Exam disappointment may flow from marks below your or others’ expectations, and it doesn’t necessarily mean a fail or low mark. 

Follow these steps to bounce back if you miss the mark:

  1. Forgive yourself. In life, things do not always go to plan. You may have faced personal challenges this semester, or taken on too much and struggled to engage with your learning, or there may not even be a reason you can identify. Be mindful of the mark and how you feel about it. Notice your disappointment, then take a breath and let yourself off the hook.
  1. Put it in perspective. In the span of a law degree, it is a reality that most students will be faced with, at the very least, one disappointing mark. Remember that you have your whole degree to get through and, just as semesters differ, so will your marks.
  1. Think of the positives. Often law students place pressure on themselves to meet market expectations. A potential employer may indeed notice your disappointing mark. However, use this as an opportunity to show what you have learned and gained from that experience. For example, you may explain in an application or interview how your fail or low mark prompted you to make changes to your learning. This in turn provides a practical example of how responsive and adaptable you are ­- skills that increase your employability.
  1. Request your exam back. Your university will likely have an avenue to request your exam paper back. Doing so provides you with the opportunity to review your performance for yourself. This may provide some clarity and closure.
  1. Seek feedback. If you notice a pattern of disappointing marks, it may be a good idea to seek further feedback. As this can be difficult after exams, consider avenues for feedback during your next semester. For example, you may opt to undertake an optional assignment, take your tutor up on that offer to mark a question, or ask questions in class. In addition, if a previous lecturer of yours comes to mind, you may consider seeking their advice on areas for improvement. 
  1. Rethink your approach. We will spend our careers learning and improving. Disappointing marks are the perfect chance to try out a new learning style next semester and see if it suits you. Consider forming a study group with some new peers, seek expert opinion on the best study guide or Q&A book for the unit, or try creating flowcharts to visualise complicated legal concepts.

Do you have other ideas to share?

About the author: Katerina Dandanis is a law student and she will be sitting her final exams in 2016.

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