Monday, September 8, 2014

Deal with exam

10 ways to Deal with exam

September 8, 2014 at 12:01am
It’s that torturous time of year again; when we come to the sad realisation that university might actually require some work. No matter how many times you’ve sat in that exam hall staring hopelessly at the clock, exams just don’t get easier. We were always told these “tips” at school but let’s be honest, none of us too any notice. Here is a guide to surviving studying for your exams from a student to a student.

You are sitting that exam
Regardless of how often you pretend the exam isn’t going to take place, or pray for another outbreak of snow or swine flu, the exam is happening. It’s silly to kid yourself that the exam is further away than it is or just to block it out of your brain completely, that helps nobody. The exam is going ahead and, like it or not, you’re going to be there sitting it. As soon as you accept that you can get on with actually revising.

Not everyone is the same
Some people like to wake up early and revise, others prefer to take the nocturnal approach and stay up into the early hours. Don’t organise your time based on what other people seem to be doing or what appears to be the norm. As long as you are studying at a time when you feel fully functional and you think that you’re getting the most out of your time that is all that matters.

People like to scare you
We all have that one friend who claims to have been studying for 20 hours a day since before you even attended university. To be honest, they probably haven’t been and if they have, then good for them. Whether they’re trying to scare you or just make themselves appear clever and confident, it is not going to help you by worrying about how much they’ve done, so don’t.

People like to pretend they don’t revise
On the other hand, there are always those people who say they’re going to fail and that they know nothing because they never revise. Let’s be honest, they wouldn’t be at university if they didn’t ever study, and if they are telling the truth then they’re going to fail. Joke’s on them when they fail all of their exams, but don’t jump on the bandwagon and think it’s cool not to revise.

You can’t revise all day every day
Whilst revision is obviously of paramount importance in the run-up to exams, it can’t consume all day every day. Don’t feel guilty for going to the pub for a pint or for seeing a film at the cinema. As long as you’re on top of your revision and know you’ll manage to have enough time to cover everything, you deserve some time off.

Get a change of scene
Sitting at the same desk in the library or surrounded by thousands of sheets of paper on your bedroom floor, being in the same place for a long time gets boring and can feel claustrophobic. You would be surprised at how simply changing where you’re revising can make you feel refreshed and ready to revise again.

Have a plan
We’re constantly told to have a revision timetable and whilst we should all organise our times however suits us, we do need to organise it somehow. The day before you start revising work out how you are going to allocate each day and you will feel like a huge weight has been lifted from you as you begin to realise you can manage these exams.

Get outside
It might be to do half an hour at the gym or simply a walk to stock up on revision snacks, but getting some fresh air really will help. It’s important to clear your head before it becomes a jumble of knowledge, and going on a walk is a cheap and quick way to do so. You could even bring a friend to talk about the exam or to test each other, or just to chat with to get away from revision for a bit.

Find that thing that helps you relax
For me, it’s definitely having a bath. It could be listening to a certain album or baking some brownies, but it’s vital to have an activity that truly allows you to escape exams for a short space of time. That way, when you come back to revising you haven’t just wasted an hour but you are actually refreshed and ready to tackle your books.

There is no point worrying afterwards
So you’ve made it to the exam but afterwards can be just as stressful as before you took the test. People saying what they wrote and making you worry is not helpful in the slightest. Convincing yourself you have failed weeks after the exam when you can’t even remember what the questions were is really not a good thing to do either. You’ve done your best and nothing can be changed now so getting yourself stressed out is just a waste of time.

Further reading: The science of exam stress: Beating the study blues

How to Beat Stress and Succeed in Exams

If you're one of the many people who gets stressed out when it comes to taking exams then we have a few tips for you that will help you to overcome this and really concentrating on achieving good grades.
  • Firstly, look after your health. It's too easy to cram so much information into your brain and also try to get on with the rest of your life. You'll end up burning the candle at both ends, so to speak, and this can seriously damage your health.
  • Looking after your health means that you should be getting adequate rest. Eat and drink sensibly and in moderation, exercise your body and spend quality time on yourself.
  • Studying at every available opportunity can lead to information overload. We suggest that you set yourself a program and stick to it as much as possible. Studying for 20 minutes at a time, followed by a 'reflection period' on what you have learned and then a 10 minute break - is ideal for optimum learning.
  • Make your learning fun. If you have someone to study with then use the opportunity to test each other on what you've learned so far, when you're away from your books.
  • If you find your mind begins to wander during your studies then it's time for a rest. There's no point in continuing at this time with your learning because your brain won't absorb the information as easily as it would if you were at your peak.
  • Practice relaxation exercises. Try this - lie on your bed or sit in a comfortable chair. Close your eyes and relax every muscle in your body - starting with the feet and working your way up to your head. Then, imagine yourself walking down the steps from a balcony - into a lovely garden. Bring all your sense into play, your vision, smell, taste, hearing and touch, for example, smelling the roses and hearing the birds, tasting the sweet morning air and touching the petals of a flower. Let yourself remain in this state for a few minutes before opening your eyes, take a deep breath - and come back to the room.

Managing Stress During Exams

Plan Your Time Wisely
  • Throughout the semester, make an effort to keep up with weekly class readings, lectures and assignments. This will spare you from playing 'catch-up' the week before exams begin.
  • As exams approach, give yourself ample time in which to study - if possible, spread this time over 2-3 days. 
    • Set aside portions of your day as 'study blocks' - 2-3 hours of concentrated study time.
    • Arrange for study blocks to occur during your peak concentration hours (i.e., if you do your best work in the morning, schedule a study block after breakfast).
    • Intersperse study blocks with other activities such as errands, coffee breaks with friends, exercise, etcetera.
State-Specific Learning
Current research shows that information is locked into the state of consciousness in which it was learned. What does this mean? It means that the mood, or state we are in when we study is the mood or state we should be in during exam time so as to best remember the information studied.
While studying…
  • Try to create a study environment that will be similar to the environment in which you will take your test. This usually means a quiet environment with few distractions (no TV, no radio, etc.).
  • If you plan to be well-rested and mentally alert during the actual exam, make sure that you are well-rested and mentally alert while studying for the exam.
  • Since exercise has proven to be effective in heightening concentration levels and performance, plan to exercise both before studying and before the exam.

Pitfalls of Perfectionism
Perfectionists tend to have unrealistically high expectations of themselves and often establish personal goals that are virtually impossible to achieve. Fears of failure to achieve these goals and expectations can sometimes lead to mental and emotional paralysis.
During exams, it is not uncommon for students to fall into the pitfall of perfectionism. How many times have you heard yourself or others say, "I have to make an A on this exam!" While at times, this statement seems achievable and motivating, at other times it can be destructive and self-defeating. Fearing that one cannot make that A on an exam might actually lead some students to procrastinate on studying, or suffer from panic-attacks come exam time - events that will probably cause these students' fears to come true.
Rather than stumble into the pitfalls of perfectionism, approach exam time with an attitude of well-prepared optimism:
  • Prior to the exam, schedule your study time wisely and make good use of the time you set aside.
  • As you enter into the exam room, say to yourself, "I am well-prepared for this test and will do the very best that I can on this exam." Saying this to yourself several times will not only help to raise your confidence, but will also help calm your pre-exam nerves.
  • Once you have turned the test in to the professor, forget about it and leave the room feeling relieved that it's over, and proud that you performed at the best of your ability.
Avoid Exam-Time Exhaustion
No matter how much we do to prevent it, exams are almost always going to be accompanied by stress. Therefore, the best thing to do is to manage the stress and make sure that it does not break down your physical, mental or emotional health.

Some healthy tips to get you through exam time:
  • Eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet - your body will need those extra vitamins and minerals. Eat at least three meals each day; and moderate your intake of fat, sugar, alcohol and caffeine.
  • Get plenty of sleep and try to make your sleeping patterns as regular as possible.
  • Exercise! After sitting in the library or at your desk for long periods of time, exercise will give you that extra boost of energy and liveliness.
  • Practice some relaxation techniques: 
    • Do Diaphragmatic breathing - close your eyes; breathe in and out slowly and completely; placing your hands on your abdomen, concentrate on it expanding as you breathe in and contracting as you breathe out.
    • Laughter - proven to have a physiological calming effect; encourage laughter by reading a funny book, watching a comedy on TV or at the movies, joking with friends, etcetera.
    • Massage therapy - visit the Campus Health Service to make an appointment with the massage therapist. 
  • Make time for personal time. Doing an activity that you enjoy will improve your mood and will help you return to your studies feeling refreshed and relaxed.
Written by: Melissa McGee, Ph.D., MPH

No comments: