The Final Count-Down: What To Do 7-Days Before NCA Exams Week
Updated: Mar 7, 2020
For those of us sitting NCA exams next week, we have less than a seven days to go before exam mayhem hits! Don’t worry… I’m just kidding; it's really not that bad.
Regardless, you may be feeling a bit edgy this week as the exam nerves start to set in, so I’m here to give you my final week count-down routine to put your mind and nerves at ease.
Determine Your Learning Style
While this is a useful step at any point in the study process, figuring out your unique learning style is a great way to help you organize your materials (and yourself) before exams.
You may already know how you learn best. Or, maybe you have no idea what I mean by “learning style”—is there really another way outside of reading endless textbook pages and a million cases and frantically trying to remember it all?
While reading and making notes are inevitable steps, what you do with the information afterwards is key to capitalizing on your learning style so you feel prepared for exams. According to the VARK method, there are four main learning modes:
a) Visual - it may help you to make diagrams out of your notes, colour code things, and otherwise create visuals out of information.
b) Auditory - it may help for you to read through your organized binder out-loud to yourself it the week and hours leading up to the exam: “In Section 5, we find Child Support. Child Support is…”
c) Read/Write - handwritten notes make work best for you. Writing and re-writing information out by hand in the weeks and hours before an exam will help you remember it. Taking those notes with you and reading while you wait for the exam to start will help everything set in.
d) Kinesthetic - connecting information to real-world or personal examples helps. In law, connecting and comparing cases to each other is another way to capitalize on your kinesthetic qualities.
If you aren’t sure which of the above you are, you can take the VARK quiz online. It’s also helpful to note that most people are a combination of two, three, or all four modes.
I always knew I was a visual learner but it wasn’t until I took the VARK quiz that I realized I was nearly equally kinesthetic as well. In hindsight my study habits certainly aligned with this visual-kinesthetic combination, but knowing it has helped me be more purposeful in my NCA preparation. Ultimately, this knowledge allows me to organize my in-exam materials in a way that makes it much easier to combat the brain farts that sometimes happen under pressure.
One Week to Go: Principles for Success & Low-Stress
As I'm going into my third (and last) NCA exam sitting next week, I’ve have plenty of tie to develop a very precise set of principles that I follow during pre-exam week. Here are the key things I do in the 7-days leading up to the NCA exams:
1) No more new information - the week before exams is dedicated to reviewing the notes I’ve made and organizing the binders I will bring into the exam. Besides clarifying anything in my notes that's confusing and re-reading key cases, I am not absorbing any more new information at this stage.
2) Summarizing Your Notes - as a visual-kinesthetic, I spend time making mind-maps that summarize my long-notes by the modules/themes outlined on the NCA syllabus. These mind maps give key case-principles and have page number references to my long-form notes so I can easily find what I’m looking for during the exam. In my professional responsibility exam, my mind maps were almost all I used as the visual prompts were sufficient memory-jogs.
I also colour code my notes and mind-maps with highlighters. Personally, I use orange for legislation, blue for case names, pink for author/judge names, and yellow for other key information. This helps me find info quickly while under time constraints in the exam.
3) Organize Your Binder - make use of the open-book format. Knowing I have a well-organized binder that I can efficiently and effectively use in the exam is super helpful in quelling my pre-exam nerves. I use tabs to divide my long notes into sections that align with the modules outlined in the syllabus. All my summary materials sit atop these sections in the front of the binder and the very first page is an outline of the main themes captured in each section.
Generally, my notes contain all the IRAC case summaries and key article points that I think I’ll need. However, I do sometimes print off in-depth summaries of seminal decisions and article abstracts to have on hand at the back of the binder just in case. That said, you won’t have a lot of time to read through full cases in the exam so do consider if killing a tree is worth it.
Hopefully you’ve found this both helpful and comforting. Stay tuned for my sequel post coming this weekend where I’ll outline my exam-week routine which involves a lot of self-care!