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Murphy's Law

New to the field of tutoring, my first few sessions have been as much on the job training for me as they have been lessons for my students. I have been brought back to my own college days as well as those frantic hours spent preparing for professional exams in finance and capital markets. I have a great deal of empathy for the student who finds himself “behind the eight ball,” so to speak and in need of help from a friendly tutor.

Like work situations, school is vulnerable to Murphy’s Law. This somewhat tongue in cheek maxim holds that “what can go, will go wrong.” One of the many corollaries to Murphy’s Law is that “work expands into the amount of time set aside to do it.” Thus if six hours are set aside to complete a particular task such as studying for an exam, it will take exactly that long even if four hours is more than adequate. The extra two hours are taken up with getting comfortable and maintaining a harmonious atmosphere with coffee, pizza, music, etc.

The inference is that students should set aside the right amount of time to study. Of course, which two hours to set aside is also vital. Remember Murphy’s Law- all those things going wrong if they can. The student has set aside two hours to study - the last two hours before the exam. It is 9:00 am and the exam is at 11:00 am. There is no room for an alternative plan, if it quickly becomes apparent that it really is going to take three hours after all. Maybe the student has forgotten to read a chapter in the text that will be on the exam or the professor has sent out a list of suggested topics in an e-mail that had gone unread.

It never works to wait until the last minute to prepare for an exam or to complete an assignment. Be efficient in your study time, but give yourself some breathing room just in case Murphy’s Law takes over your education.