Thursday, March 18, 2010

Exam Blues

An examination (exam) is looming and your stress levels are rising. How can you stay calm, study well and blitz the exam?
Preparing for an exam and getting over the exam jitters is one that takes practice. You need a strategy that works best for you.

Staying calm is the first thing to do. So, you have an exam – find the things you have to learn and know how to do well. Don’t dwell on the fact that an exam is next week. Remind yourself that if you do the preparation work then you will be okay.
Some people prefer the ‘night before cram’ method. Whilst this may work in the short term, the knowledge won’t be there in the long term. It also means that the knowledge you acquire in the cram, you will most likely have to learn again in the future and it won’t be so easy to scaffold for future learning.

A ‘less stress’ method is one that I prefer. Here, you take your learning that you have done throughout the term or semester and compile your study notes. These notes consist of quotes, formulas, models, phrases, ideas, really anything to do with your exam topic. It is best to start compiling notes as the term or semester progresses. For example, if you are required to read chapters two, three, five, seven and eight of your allocated text book then summarise each chapter and include a heading for easy reference.

Most teachers will let provide you with tips on what you will need to know and understand to be successful in your exam. Remember, the exam will only have what you have been learning about during the unit or semester. It is amazing to realise that examination writers (most likely the subject coordinator) that set the exam do not include random topics or questions that you will not have learned about. The examination will cover what you have been learning throughout the term or semester. It is your time to show your teacher what you know!

Know your exam structure. Check whether it is an essay, short answer, multiple choice or a mixture. This should be provided by your teacher prior to your exam and help with your preparation. If it is an essay, know your quotes and who said them. Be able to back up your ideas. Write a sample essay structure including what ideas you will cover in which paragraph. If it is a multiple choice, know your facts. You are usually provided with four possible answers. It will include; one ridiculous answer, one that could be correct, another very close to the true answer and the correct answer. Cross out the definite incorrect answers if you are unsure of the true answer. Just because it is a multiple choice exam does not mean you do not have to know your stuff! With short answer, you will also need to ensure you have plenty of study notes and facts.
Your notes do not have to be full paragraphs. I like to use dot points and expand on anything I am not sure about. Typed notes are easy to read, but written notes are just as good. Make sure you reference where the information came from i.e.: text book, article, lecture. Carry your notes with you wherever you go so that you can glance at them from time to time. The aim is that the information will become familiar, easy to recall, thus ‘stick’ in your mind.

Studying for an exam does not mean you read over your notes day in and day out. You need time to absorb the information and also relax your mind. So make sure you eat well and get enough sleep. You don’t want to be having a brain overload the night before the exam.

The night before the exam, you may have trouble sleeping but if you know you have done the work i.e.: read all chapters, completed assignments, made great notes, spoken with the teacher about any problems, then you have nothing to worry about. You most likely know more than you realise! Get your family members or friends to ask you questions about your topic – just talking about will make you feel better.
One the day of your exam, have one last read over your notes. If you don’t know it now, you won’t know it in time for your exam. But because you have done consistent study over the semester or term you won’t need to stress! Take a bottle of water, pens and sharpened pencils and positive affirmations with you to your exam.

If once you get into your exam, the page in front of you is a blur, take a few deep breaths before starting. Remind yourself that you know your stuff! Take a sip of water and write your name on the exam paper. You will most likely have fifteen minutes reading time and you will be able to make notes. Write all your thoughts and ideas down on paper so that if you do have a mind block – it will be easy for you to refer to your notes. Take note of how much time you have to complete the exam and divide your time between questions so that you pace yourself well.

Once you get writing, it should flow. If you get stuck on a question this is okay. Stop; take a breather and a sip of water. Reread the question or move on to the next question. Don’t forget to mark the unanswered question so you remember to come back to it.

Once you have completed your exam stop, take a sip of water and a few breaths. Reread through your answers checking for punctuation, grammar and that you have answered the question properly.

After your exam – reward yourself. Take the afternoon off study, do something you enjoy. Rest your brain – you deserve it!

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