Be 7 times ready for exams

An exam is not just about revision. It also involves the exam itself.

You can revise for weeks and then lose it on the day from a simple lapse in concentration, or a panic over unimportant issues. But what use would that be? And who wants to worry about something that causes enough anxiety as it is?

Go through the rigmarole of examinations with a positive step and some initial work. You need to be 7 things in order to achieve readiness for the big day:

The necessary evil of exams... (photo by ralaenin)

1. Be Selfish – For once, you need to ignore what’s going on around you as you stand outside the examination hall. Exams are not group efforts. The revision is done and was unique to your own mental strengths. Now is not the time to consider what other people think will be in the exam and how they have prepared for it.  You’ve done all you can, so listening to others 2 minutes before you step in to the room is only likely to knock your confidence.

2. Be Prepared – Exam logistics shouldn’t get in the way of your peace. Get ready the night before, have your equipment packed (with spare items, if feasible), and confirm where and when you are needed. Preparation gets rid of at least one concern and means you’re much less likely to make mistakes before you’re even tucking into your answers.

3. Be Refreshed – You’ve had months where you can stay up in the early hours of the morning. There will be many more months (unless you’re in your final year, natch) when you can go out and party the night away. The night before an exam is not the time to risk anything. For once, relax a bit, push the revision aside and go to bed in good time. When you’re in bed, don’t worry about tomorrow, or you won’t get to sleep!

4. Be Cautious – Don’t leave it to chance. Arrive to the exam in good time, read through the instructions, then read through the questions until you’re sure what is needed. Don’t rush the exam, even though you’re under a time limit. With some initial preparation in the first few minutes, you are in a good position to plan the allotted time well. Finally, consider what you want to write before you start writing…

5. Be Relevant – …And this is why you need to consider your answers. When it comes to marking exams, tutors still see answers to questions that were never asked in the first place. Blindly writing down what you’ve revised isn’t going to help if it doesn’t have a reference point to the question that’s been set. Always refer back to the question.

6. Be Choosy – Not all questions are equally weighted. Yet I often hear this kind of thing:

“I was stuck on that stupid question for half the exam. It wasted loads of time and it’s only worth a couple of marks. I didn’t have time to finish the rest of the questions.”

They might be annoyed, but the solution should have been obvious. Don’t waste time worrying over low-marked questions. You can always return to it later. Just leave a gap to come back to it, or answer the questions in a slightly different order, if allowed. In past exams, I’ve not always been required to stick to the answers in a linear fashion. Sometimes my paper started with question 3 before I tackled 1 and 2.

It’s not worth getting frustrated AFTER the event. If you find some questions too tough to answer, choose to move on and only return to the troublesome answers when you’ve finished the rest of the exam.

7. Be Yourself – While you may not directly be all the things above on a day to day basis, the final thing to be is all about you. Treat an exam day as a regular day and take the exam as a necessary use of your time. Just being yourself and letting the world run along as usual, you are using the most relaxing strategy. Yes, it’s important, but so is every minute of your life. So throw a curveball and enjoy yourself!

Put these qualities in to action and you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about. Well, almost!

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  1. Though it is true that revision is a personal endeavor that truly depends on your mindset. With regards to #1, some collaboration/discussion with fellow classmates is definitely helpful in terms of focusing in on the most important material as well as fleshing out some of the material. I would say a student needs to be selectively selfish, but not completely discount classmates.

  2. Jorge, you’re absolutely right. Collaborating on revision can certainly hold benefits for many students and I don’t want to knock that.

    I’m afraid I didn’t explain myself properly in the post. My bad. Thanks to your comment, I have now edited things so that it (hopefully) reads more clearly.

    I was referring to the moments before an exam. There is inevitably discussion over the possible exam content, what people did and didn’t revise, how they believe the questions will be structured, why one type of revision is better than another, and so on. It’s unproductive to speculate and it’s potentially damaging to do so in the moments before sitting down to an exam.

    Hopefully that clears things up. Of course, if you disagree with my actual point, I have the perfect reply:
    “No, you are wrong and I am right…lalalaLALALA I’m not listening!”
    As you can see, I want to be adult about it.

  3. I agree with you Martin. If you want to collaborate correctly you should do it a few days before the exam. When you collaborate right before an exam there is a chance that someone will ask you “did you study this part?” and your answer is “no!” At that point you are frightened and ready to run away. It is not good for your confidence.

  4. Martin,

    It has all become clear and I completely agree with your point. Just prior to an exam it is definitely not productive and it may alter your mindset negatively. As Michael mentioned, it is always painful when you do not know a question a classmate asks–instant panic attack!


  5. Hi, I’ve been to your website once before. Thought I’d drop you a comment…great articles, keep up the good work 🙂

  6. Hey there…even though I’m almost done with my finals but I’m glad you drop a message on my blog and here I am at your website. Good advice there, especially #1, which I practised dilligently. I usually sweep into the room 2 minutes before time, just as everyone is already too frazzled and stressed out to brag about what they have studied the night before and how confident they are that it will all come out. Keep up the fun writing, I’m reading this blog.

  7. Thanks agentjade, I’m glad you’ve managed to glide into exams without the usual build-up. Best of luck to you for the future. Goodbye finals!

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