If you are like how I was when facing exams (i.e. scared and nervous), then you will know that panic is bound to ensues. Sticking one’s head in the sand and trying to forget about it is one way of trying to cope, but it is not particularly effective and not recommended! So the best way to deal with it is head-on. Determination, common sense and preparation will be your allies here and they will help you when applied properly.
A key area when preparing for exams is studying. Without it (or without enough of it), problems will ensue because as the saying goes, knowledge is power! At this time, it definitely is. So do not scrimp on it, but instead channel your nervous energy into doing something useful and reap the benefits. People function in different ways in when it comes to studying. Some like using study guides; some prefer note cards and some even like to voice-record their notes. Whatever and however you choose to do this is up to you. Here are some suggestions that will help in this area.
First and foremost, have a plan of attack in place. You can make a chart or, if you have a good brain, just make a mental note of what you are planning to study, for how long, on what days, and the method you intend to use. It is a lot of information so I suggest writing down a schedule using a key or colour-coded chart to make things easier for you.
Secondly, start as soon as you know what dates your exams are, begin focusing on those that are the closest (in date). Giving yourself plenty of time means that you can cover more topics and doing this will give you more confidence to face the exam.
If it is possible, see if you can get your hands on previous exam questions. Go back about four or five years and see what questions regularly come up. I did this when I was in university and getting ready for my exams (old exam papers were readily available then; I am not sure this is the case now, but it doesn’t hurt to check). Study a few of them in detail and give general attention to the rest. Focusing on three key areas rather than ten can help you plan your review of the materials.
Have a mentor or support network in place that will help you should you have problems. Talk to them and listen to what they have to say. A problem shared is a problem halved. If you have a study group, do not be afraid to make suggestions or tell people if you have any issues; you will be surprised at how many people are facing the same thing. Open, honest and focused discussion will help hugely in overcoming obstacles.
Find ways of helping you to remember things. I used rhymes a lot (what do you expect? I am a writer, after all!) Everyone has their ways. If you just prefer going over your notes repeatedly, then that’s fine. If you find that using colours works for you, go for it! If you like diagrams, draw away!
Make sure the place you have chosen to study in is quiet and free from distraction. I found that having quiet classical music playing in the background was incredibly soothing and helped me to concentrate. No matter what you tell yourself, concentrating in the living room with the TV blaring, family loudly chattering, and the washing machine on spin in the adjoining kitchen is not going to work!
Take regular breaks and eat healthy, balanced meals. It is a very stressful time and your body needs all the help it can get! I suggest taking a fifteen to twenty minute break every 2 hours or so. This will help you relax and help your brain digest what it has taken in. Nutrition plays a key role in this area, too, as does recreation and sleep. Take one evening during the week off – catch a movie, do some exercise, have a pamper session -- then have eight hours of sleep. You will feel much better for it and the next day, it will be easier to concentrate. Sometimes skipping a day eases the load on your brain and allows the material to “sink in”.
Do not forget to keep hydrated; it will help improve concentration. Avoid fizzy and sugary drinks – water, juice, and tea (herbal or otherwise) are much better alternatives.
Do not wait and have to “cram” at the last minute. It only increases stress, and is of minimal use. You will not take anything in at all. When I was doing my GCSEs and A-Levels, I would see people with their study cards feverishly going over their notes outside the exam hall. That is not the time to be doing studying, but calmly going over what you have already reviewed. Take deep breaths and relax, it will help you to concentrate.
Studying for final exams does require discipline and there is no way to make it fun (trust me, I have tried!), but you can make it effective and minimise any problems that you may have in this area. Time is very important, as is common sense. Family and loved ones have their part to play, as does having a healthy body and mind. These tips do not guarantee success and they do not stop you from encountering any problems. What they do is to give you a good foundation – one that will help you to face the challenges that are yet to come during exam time.
All the best peeps...
Angelique Fyre © 7th April 2010
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