It is no secret that preparing to study and thus sit for professional exams is no joke, especially the Entrance Exams. It is not the same as sitting college exams where you *know* the lecturer who is writing the paper and you could almost predict what topics are going to pop up.
For professional exams, the point of these exams is to prepare you for professional practice and to test your understanding and of course, your knowledge of the topics.
Not to brag and I MEAN not to brag in the strongest way – but I passed the Entrance Exams in one sitting. In total honesty, I wasn’t confident that I would pass. The reason was that I was sure that I failed the first exam (Tort – I had no confidence that I had passed it). I spent my summer hiding in a dimly-lit corner of my home preparing to sit 5x tough exams, I was also writing my dissertation for my master’s. (It’s ok, you can call me ridiculous at this point) (right, maaaybe I am bragging a little bit).
Anyway, the point I’m trying to share here is that I have the experience of sitting these grueling exams and I am here to share with you what I did to prepare and pass the entrance exams.
For context, I live in Ireland and I want to qualify + practise as a Barrister. A Barrister is a type of lawyer who specialises in advocacy and is the kind of lawyer that you would see in court – giving legal arguments, trying to argue and convince the judge that they are right and everyone else is wrong, and *sometimes* wears a white/cream coloured wig (though I don’t think that many Barristers do these days).
To qualify as a barrister in Ireland, you need to sit the Barrister-At-Law Entrance Examinations which are held every year in August in King’s Inns. The exams are a grueling 5-day exam (yes, that’s right – FIVE days) and it really is a test of your ability to stick it out until the end. I have heard that by day 3, your writing hand tends to give in, you are tired and mentally exhausted and it doesn’t sound pretty. But since the pandemic, the exams have been spaced out over a 10-day period (not sure if this will continue forever but fingers crossed).
In terms of how I prepared to pass the exams in one go, there was one major factor and that was my master’s. I knew what I was getting myself involved in when I decided to sit the exams AND write my dissertation. Looking back now, I wouldn’t have done it as I definitely could have put more emphasis and more time into revising or researching my dissertation. But you know what, you live and you learn.
So here are the steps that I followed to prepare to pass the Entrance Exams in one sitting:
Table of Contents:
1) Find your healthy optimal work/energy-time
This is a big factor and you need to give yourself the time to figure out when is your optimal work time. You will need to be stern with yourself and be as honest as you possibly can. Realistically, most people work best in the morning, and it is perhaps the best thing to do so that you can get to sleep earlier and develop a really healthy work/life/rest balance.
What really helped me make this decision was knowing that when I would pass the exams, classes usually start in the mornings and I would be commuting to King’s Inns (They are the institution that trains barristers). I knew that even though I like working late at night, but really, the best decision for me would be to develop the habit of waking up early and getting my mind and body (and honestly, my soul) ready and used to getting up early. As well, I was also getting as much rest as possible as early as I was able to. I knew that when the exams approached, I wouldn’t be sleeping as much as I normally would so I wanted to get as much rest as possible before that time approached and it worked.
I woke up at 8 a.m. and eventually got to a point where I was comfortable waking up at 6.30 am.
Waking up at 8 a.m. doesn’t seem late but the idea was to begin studying at 9 a.m. and to get used to that habit at the very beginning. Every 2 weeks I would wake up earlier by 15 minutes and I did this incrementally. It really worked for me and I am glad that it did because now waking up early is a normal thing for me to do.
2) Develop a system that works for you
I would say that this is single-handedly the best piece of advice that I can give to you if you intend to prepare and to sit and of course, pass the Entrance Exam. It is very important to develop a healthy system that works for you and operates around you and your life.
Another mini-tip that I would suggest to support building a healthy system is to include buffer time into your system – I’ll explain what I mean by this. In my timetable (see screenshot below) you’ll notice that at certain points during the week, I will keep a set number of hours or time blocks free. The reason why I did this is that sometimes… life is chaotic. This just means that if during the week my revision was interrupted, I can catch up during my buffer time. If I got to the end of the week and I haven’t used the buffer time, I can choose to continue studying or watch a film, FaceTime my friends, endlessly scroll on TikTok – things like that. It made such a big difference at the beginning of my prep time and it will for you too!
Be honest with your friends. It’s no secret that preparing to pass the Entrance Exams requires a lot of your independent time and this may mean having that difficult conversation of ‘I may not be able to meet up for a while’ or ‘I need to prioritise my revision’.
I am really lucky to have had such a strong network around me including my friends, family, and my online community. Getting messages of support really does push you through those dark days when you feel like giving up and throwing in the towel.
So friend – if you know someone who is undergoing the Entrance Exam this summer, don’t worry if they are not as communicative as usual. The time will come for that. A message of support will go SUCH a long way and really enough for your friend to keep going.
If you are sitting exams this summer – ask your friends to check in with you or to drop you messages of support every few weeks. It may sound silly but some weeks will be tougher than others and at some point, the revision will annoy you. It is at THAT moment when you receive a message of support from a friend that matters and pushes you through.
4) Write a list of all of the stationary that you actually need
Listen, you and I, we’re not so different, I love a new set of stationery as much as any other person/lawyer to be. And to ensure that I would enjoy ONE thing during this summer and to ensure that I did something that I actually enjoyed – I, of course, went stationary shopping!
And it was hands down my favourite day in the summer of 2021.
Be sure to check out my blog post for the best stationary equipment to use that will guide you in preparing for the Entrance Exams.
Now on a more serious and less humorous note, I wrote down a list of stationary equipment that I actually needed. It might just be me, but I have a habit of buying a ton of stationary … and not actually using them in the end..!
It is a total waste of money and time but also I could have bought something else. I thought deeply about what I needed. I spent an afternoon with Mum buying the necessary equipment for the battle that I was able to embark on. It was fun and this is how I prepared and passed the Entrance Exam!
To connect with me on a more lifestyle-daily basis, check out my Instagram here and follow along as I share my journey towards qualifying as a Barrister and sharing my daily life too.
Until the next blog post,
Featured Image designed on Canva.