A SURVIVOR’S TALE OF THE FE1S
There is a special kind of bliss reserved for any week following the end of exams.
The waking up, not at crazy o’clock in the morning, and knowing you can just roll over and head back to sleep. Binge-watching Netflix without the study guilt and finally reading a good book that is in absolutely no way academic. Being able to reconnect with all the friends you couldn’t take with you into your FE1 cave that you’ve been living in for the past few months. And, of course, finally having the freedom to blog again.
The FE1s are over. Well, for now at least. I’ve spent a significant portion of my post-exam time just sleeping and trying to forget the trauma of the late night cramming and the early morning starts. And I’m still in a little bit of shock at the fact that I’m now, after months of dreading them, on the other side. Again, I’ve still to receive the results and there’s another bout of exams to look forward to in October, but at the minute, It’s as if there’s been a massive weight lifted off my shoulders.
How did I find them?
I think half the battle with the FE1s is understanding how to study for them. They are very different from my experience of exams in college. The answers are shorter and with significantly less case law. I had known going into the FE1s that knowledge of topics was to be less in-depth, more wide-ranging than those we had covered in UCD. I found that I had to cut out a load of cases, keeping my answers as concise and to the point as possible. This works excellently for some people, but for me it took a little bit of time to adjust.
Another important aspect of the exams is knowing how to make educated cuts when it comes to topics. I don’t know anyone who studied the whole course, especially for EU – that subject is mammoth. That said, making too many cuts can be fatal to a good paper. I made the mistake of assuming that a topic due this year would come up, and it did, but the question was a tad too obscure for me to want to tackle it, so I was stuck doing another answer that I hadn’t really prepared. It’s the luck of the draw to an extent I suppose, but I was kicking myself after for limiting myself as much as I had done. We’ll see how it goes when the results come out, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed about it until then.
As for picking which papers to do, I think the best bit of advice I could give moving forward is for people to pick their subjects based primarily on what they’re most interested in and on the exam timetable. Pick either Constitutional or EU. From there, pick subjects that are well spread out throughout the time table so that you give yourself every chance to study. That said, I ended up doing Property the day before EU and I hated it. It felt as if I had less than 24hrs to cram all of EU into my head before my toughest exam, and as it was on the very last day of the FE1s, I was completely exhausted. Another friend of mine decided to do four in a row, and although he blitzed through them, he was equally wrecked by the time he was done. To cut a long story short, the FE1s will tire everyone out and no matter how long you’ve spent studying, you’re still going to be cramming right up until the very last minute.
The light at the end of the exam tunnel, however, is that they are doable. Again, I’ve no idea how my results will turn out, and I could be jumping the gun massively here, but everyone has to go through them and everyone ultimately survives. That’s oddly comforting to know when you’re studying and the end seems no where in sight.
Before I finish this post, there’s a few quick things I think are worth mentioning on the off chance that anyone is reading this before launching into study.
First, buy up to date exam papers and sample answers. I found them to be infinitely useful in gauging how to study, what answers are required and to see which topics I should focus on.
Second, if you’re doing an exam that you’re allowed bring legislation in for, get that legislation well in advance. The FE1s do not allow you to bring in photocopies or print outs – you have to own an actual government publication copy. I was under the impression that there was a shop in Dublin that sold them, and found out a little too late that I had to order them via post. Plus the sooner you’ve the books, the sooner you can tab them. That can be a bit of a time-waster if you’ve left it until the night before the exams.
Third, do your own thing. I barely compared study and notes to my friends sitting the exams, and in hindsight I think it was the best thing for me. I found that chatting to others in the weeks leading up to the exams made me more nervous than I needed to be. and in the end I was doing just as much study as everyone else, even if I thought I was miles behind.
Forth, figure out whether you can afford to take time off or whether you need to work and study at the same time. Personally, I worked while studying. It was the easiest way for me to pay for the FE1s, the exam material, etc. I kept a full time job up until a month or so before, then dropped to part-time and then took a week off before the exams started. This increased the workload and it did stress me out far more than if I had been able to take a solid eight weeks off for study. But realistically, it’s still doable, even if it means going from work to study every night and using your time in work as a break from the books. I know, it’s abysmal, but I will probably do it again for the next set of exams, I’ll just start studying a few weeks earlier than most to keep on track. But the important thing is, it’s not impossible, it’s just a bit harder. Plus, from having zero social life, once the exams are over you end up having a nice sum to spend on treating yourself for a weekend after.
That’s really all the things I can say about the exams. We came, we saw, we (just about) survived. If I think of anything else that might be of use, or if anyone has any queries, as always, feel free to get in touch.
And yes, it feels really, REALLY, good to be back blogging.