Expectation vs. Reality: Exam Edition

Social Life

Expectation: Study for a few hours, take a break and maybe hang out with a friend or watch a movie before returning to some more studying. Your boyfriend’s birthday? No worries, you can take the night off from all that studying. You got a lot of work done so one night won’t hurt you. Besides, you deserve a night off.

Reality: The most social interaction you’ve had is when you ask someone to watch your prized possessions (i.e. your laptop, purse/wallet with your Scotia Bank card and coffee card, not to mention those heavy textbooks) while you run to the washroom. This is what your life has become.


Expectation: You have options, go out to grab something to eat, meet up with friends for a meal, or cook yourself something. The choice is yours. Bonus: you need not sacrifice nutrition in favour of keeping your spot in the library since you won’t need to be holed up in there. You have yet another choice of eating at your place, or out. Ah, choices.

Reality: Nutrition? Hahahaha. The last time you’ve had a full meal…may have been when Ford was Mayor…wait is he still Mayor? All that caffeine has got you trippin! So much so that you wonder where in the food pyramid your coffee would be…only to realize your entire pyramid would consist of coffee beans (and Red Bull, if you’re lucky).

Study Space

Expectation: You don’t really require that much space, you’re only going to be in the library for an hour or so. If there’s no space, you can study at home, NBD.

Reality: Can’t study at home because that always leads to you falling asleep in bed. So you either live in the library or the Reading Room at Birge. You spend more time in these locations than you do anywhere else. Even home (you’re seriously considering having your mail redirected here). When you leave the fluorescent Reading Room (for those rare occasions where you go grab coffee or opt to go home and shower) your eyes always have trouble adjusting to the sunlight.


Expectation: Losing the recommended 8 hours of sleep to study? That is SO undergrad. Besides, you don’t need that much time to study. You’ve been studying plenty during the waking hours and can afford, no DESERVE that time to sleep.

Reality: Rationalizing that if you stay up all night you will be able to understand Property Law AND finish your summaries. Right after you get through your readings…so…maybe no sleep for the next 2 days?


Expectation: A must. Everyday. Twice on some days.

Reality: Strictly optional, ain’t nobody got time for that! *

*This is a public service announcement, out of consideration for your fellow students, please make time for this, if nothing else.


Expectation: Having gone through this ordeal last term during ‘fail-safe’ exams, you are calm and ready to conquer Crim, Contracts, Constitutional and the other non-C classes.

Reality: Fail-safes…yeah…nope. Still anxious. Still panicked…You entertain the very real concern that you might fall asleep during an exam. You lose sleep over the possibility of losing sleep and making up for that lost sleep in a place where you’re not supposed to be sleeping! These marks matter. These marks matter. THESE MARKS MATTER. If you don’t do well, you won’t get a job for 2L and if you don’t get a job for 2L, then you will be unemployed as a 3L…no articling…no job…no income…no way to pay off enormous debt…You panic some more. Get anxious reading case with “bad law” and yet feel like you can relate to the sheer confusion the judges seem to be stating. If by any stroke of luck you manage to get some sleep, you wake up at 3 am to ponder why a groom would think he can sue a blacksmith for the bride marrying someone else when he was late….realize you are wasting precious time that could be spent sleeping…Sleep…oh… You lose sleep over the possibility of losing sleep and making up for that lost sleep in a place where …*bawls*


Expectation: Having religiously done your readings throughout the term and completely understanding the intricacies of Canadian administrative law, you breeze through your map/summary. At one point during your review, you have an epiphany and finally understand the difference between patently unreasonable and unreasonable. You chuckle to yourself that it took you this long to notice the distinction.

Reality: So wait…patently…what? Oh thank God for Wikipedia.

The Highlighter Method

Expectation: After incessantly hearing about this divine method during O-Week and having 7 months to hone your highlighting skills, you are ready to apply this life skill to April Exams and highlight your way to a neon HH.

Reality: Having never actually learned this so-called method, you wonder if this was a mere ploy by the upper years. This suspicion is the sole reason you refrain from openly asking an upper year “what the hell is the highlighter method and why have I yet to encounter a single soul who will teach me the ways?!” Instead you take it upon yourself to learn this method…you’d have been better off dipping your white summary sheets in bright yellow hi-lighter fluid. Same result.

Time Management

Expectation: First term you learned second hand from your peers (not firsthand of course! You’re always on top of your readings) the stress that accompanies falling behind on readings and having to get caught up before doing summaries/maps/reviews. You manage to stay on top of all your readings (as usual) and have already started studying for finals with 3 weeks to go.

Reality: You experienced first-class time management fails last term, and yet here you are again. You hear people already started studying for exams…and feel the anxiety crush your soul. You should start. Soon. But you have to do the readings first. Soon.

Finally Finishing

Expectation: Celebrating with your friends in a dignified manner. Catching up with friends, family, sleep (showers). Consider reading up on some of those “recommended readings” that you simply could not devote time to during the year. Maybe taking off for a few weeks to go travelling and nurture your soul before returning to do your highly anticipated 1L job. All the while revelling in the knowledge that YOU HAVE SURVIVED.  

Reality: FREEDOM!!! *cries* Celebrate like only law students know how: you FREAKING SURVIVED. Spend your entire summer prioritizing sleep, regardless of what you do this summer (firms, faculty, travel, volunteer, etc.).