The lead up to exams can be one of the most stressful times for a student really looking to perform well in those exams.
They put a level of expectation on themselves and can rarely ever meet those expectations because they have set the bar so high. This isn’t a bad thing to aim as high as possible but it does put extra stress on that student and another burden then need to carry through that exam period.
The reason I am talking about exams is my little brother is currently going through his end of year exams for his degree.
I saw him yesterday and he looked like death. I know he hasn’t had much sleep and he has been pushing his mental capacity to the limits (takes after his older brother) but I could also tell he needed a break.
One thing I couldn’t help to notice was how blood shot his left eye was. It was all kinds of red. I asked him what happened because even if you are studying for hours on little sleep your eye shouldn’t look like that.
He told me that Mum has bought him some kind of salts for his eyes.
Lesson 1: Don’t Try New Medications
Don’t try new medications, substances or anything else in the lead up to exams because the lead up to exams is no time to be experimenting with these types of things. The side effects also have the ability to severely hinder your learning progression.
Lesson 2: Add Variety To Your Studying Techniques
Another thing I noticed which I was pretty impressed with was the variety of different study techniques he used. This is huge. Do not stick to one way of learning. You are limiting your learning ability by relying on one form of study.
For example if you just read the text book you are only going to take in so much information. If you read the textbook, rewrite key points in your own words, place those on pieces of paper where you will see them regularly, practice your recall on those notes and then read the text book again, you are going to have so many more cues to call on when you are sitting in that exam and reading the exam questions.
My little brothers techniques were a lot different to mine but everyone has something that works for them. I usually have a general understand of what he is studying because on the shower walls are pages of notes stuck to the tiles with blue-tack. Although I could see a floor, the font size is so small I feel personally that he would have a better recall on certain cues like visual recall of the font was bigger.
When I was walking past his room last night, and I still laugh about this now, I asked him what he was listening to. He replied nothing these are gardening ear muffs. I started laughing and asked him what he was doing, he didn’t have any notes in front of him or anything but he was practicing his recall from what he had learnt earlier with as little noise distraction as possible. I was quite impressed. The ear muffs act as a focal point because if you’re wearing them you train your body to operate under the conditions you need them to.
It’s like with rescue remedy. I use to take it to calm my nerves before exams. But now every time I even smell rescue remedy it’s like a switch just flicks in my brain and we are into game mode!
There have been several studies that indicate that smell is one our strongest triggers to recall memories and some students actually study different subjects and spray a different scented perfume for each subject. This is an extreme case but I have had personal experience with smells triggering memories from a long time ago.
My go to system is my highlighter system. I have colour codes for headings, sub-heading, definitions and alternate 2 colours for general text importance.
Also I record my notes to an audio file and listen to it like a podcast which I also found extremely useful to utilize my time on the train and use my time more efficiently.
Lesson 3: Hindsight
I look back now at all the exams I took and the actual scores I got in all of those are irrelevant now. The important thing is to pass. And then comes the old saying “P’s get the degrees”. This is true in some cases but there are other cases where you need a High Distinction average to explore other opportunities and university scholarships so there is extra motivation there to succeed.
As stressed out as you may get at the time, take a moment to think about every exam you have taken and the significance of that exam in your life now. I bet most of them are minimal. If you want to do your best, I don’t blame you but don’t let the pressures break you. Don’t crumble under expectation and you should be proud of yourself if you know you have done everything you can to prepare in the allocated time period