Exams are only weeks away and it's time to put in intense revision. On Dit's resident exam expert gives some top advice from the bottom of the ladder.

Of all my examinations, the one I remember with greatest fondness was the Criminal Law exam of 1979.

It was a real bastard. There was a nine o'clock start to being with, a sadistic tradition designed (as far as I can tell) to give an unfair advantage to Christian Fundamentalist students still living at home with their parents. The weather was dismal – overcast with steady, monotonous, and seemingly eternal drizzle. When the sickly sun peeped through occasionally it only added to the dejection, like a John Olsen smile.

The mood outside the abattoir-like shed of Centennial Hall was of all pervading hopelessness. Most of the waiting horde stood and stared at the ground in front of their fee., zombie-people, shell-shocked even before the shrapnel had begun to fly. A few scanned textbooks feverishly, repeating the underlined bits with their eyes closed. They retained none of it, and only added desperation to their mounting despair.

Then the awful shuffle began, towards the cavernous doors flanked by the invigilators, who stood like sadistic footmen at the Royal Wedding of a hunchback prince to haemophiliac bride.

At least that's what I presume it was like, I didn't go. At the appointed hour I was involved in the thorny problem of extracting myself from a particularly vindictive snooker – the yellow ball totally obscured by the black – on the full-size table in North Adelaide.

Cowardly perhaps, but at that stage I was convinced that my ignorance of burning issues such as the defence of automatism was so overwhelming and all-encompassing that any attempt to complete an examination paper would result in a reduction of the pathetic percentage I had accrued during the year.

I was wrong of course – examiners may be Nazis, but they don't actually give negative marks, however puerile the paper they have in front of them. So resist the temptation of a stress-free day and observe the first rule of passing exams:

RULE 1 - TURN UP.

Let's pass on to an acquaintance of mine, who in the week before the same exam opened his three kilogram text book for the purpose of some so-called revision. To his horror he realised that he understood only one word in three, these being pronouns and other expressions of legalistic padding such as "heretofore" and "tantamount".

He went into catatonic shock for four days.

On the fifth day his brain gradually came to grips with what was required of it. It was obvious that to assimilate the vast amount of information he would need to pass, he could not afford the luxury of sleep The solution was obvious – large amounts of amphetamines.

These he duly acquired, and by regular nasal administration he managed the Herculean task of cramming his mind with obsolete legal nonsense for forty-eight hours without a break. He duly fronted up to Wayville, to be greeted by the grim scenes previously described. But his mood was different – an airy confidence wafted from him with every step.

It was not until actually seated at his tiny wooden torture desk (what do the primary school children write on during University exams?) that he realised his one fatal error.

The amphetamines were wearing off. His calculation of the stimulant required had covered only his swotting, and not the examination itself.

Panic gripped him. As soon the ritual utterance 'You May Start Writing' had been intoned, he scribbled maniacally, desperately attempting to get his answers down before the inevitable tide of unconsciousness dragged him down.

It was all in vain of course. He was woken three hours later by a grey-faced invigilator violently shaking his shoulders.

His examination paper was opened by the red biro wielders a day later to reveal two paragraphs of brilliant lucid prose and a large circular patch of blurred blue lines where the dribble from his sleeping mouth has run on to the page.

RULE 2 - STAY AWAKE

Beyond this, I can't really help you.

If all else fails, the hot bath and the razor blade is both the cheapest and most visually arresting method. I personally lean towards barbiturates and whisky.


This appeared in On Dit the student newspaper for University of Adelaide students near the end of 1986 (or possibly 87).