8 Tips for surviving exam season...
Exam season is in full swing and although I'm not in education anymore, May and June will always remind me of intense revision and I will always feel for students when these months roll around. This week also happens to be Mental Health Awareness Week, which is very fitting, as mental health issues and stress can be heightened during exam time. I finished my degree a year ago and so have the benefit of hindsight when looking back at my exam techniques, but my experience is not so long ago that I don't remember it... So here are my tried and tested tips for before, during and after an exam...
I had two revision albums that I always listened to (whilst studying for my A Levels), and even to this day, I can't listen to them without being taken back to a note covered dining room table. Listening to these two albums helped me to get into the revision zone as when they were playing, I knew it was time to knuckle down and study. Maybe don't choose your absolute favourite albums ever, because you will associate exams with them for evermore, but definitely choose music that you enjoy but that doesn't distract you too much. I find that listening to music whilst doing any form of work also helps me keep track of time and get into a good rhythm (excuse the pun...).
Plan a delicious but simple breakfast for every day that you have an exam. This will hopefully give you a little something to look forward to on exam days and a boost of positivity in the morning. I'm not sure how true this is, but when I was doing my A Levels, I read that blueberries were a brain food and so I ate a lot of blueberries for breakfast. There's no way of knowing whether my good grades were down to the blueberries at all, but they could have acted as a placebo and could be worth a try!
- Pre-exam conversations
If you know it's going to stress you out, try not to talk too much with your friends right before the exam. They might ask you a question or mention something that you haven't gone over, or even start gossiping about something totally irrelevant to the exam which could be equally as worrying or take you out of the zone.
This might seem like a random one, but in my experience, exam halls can be really chilly (even in summer), and I find that I cannot concentrate or perform to my full capacity when I am cold. Take a jumper with you, or if your school/college/university makes you leave coats/jumpers at the back of the room or under your chair, wear lots of layers so you can take them off if the room is warm, but you can rest assured that you have enough clothes if it is a bit nippy.
As soon as the exam begins, take some time to make notes and a rough plan (I'm talking from a humanities based perspective here, as I did English, drama and history at Sixth From and English literature and American studies at university). After deciding on which questions I was going to answer, I would spend a good ten minutes doing this. You might think that it's a waste of time and eats into the time you have to actually answer the questions, but in my experience it was worth it. It kept me on track and stopped me from waffling or forgetting to include a key thing. Having a rough structure to my answers definitely helped me to feel in control and calm.
- Try your best
Everyone knows this one, but seriously, just try you best. Exams are not the be all and end all, and that you will be okay whatever happens. But, if you know you've done the best you can, you can't regret anything or wonder what might have happened if you had tried your best.
- Post-exam conversations
Following on from not talking too much with your friends before the exam, try not to discuss your answers too much with them after the exam. No doubt you will have many exams in a small period of time, so you don't want to go home feeling anxious and paranoid about your answers when you probably have another exam the next day. What's done is done, and worrying about it is not going to change your performance or your final grade.
- Treat yourself
Plan to give yourself a little treat after each exam - if you have lots of exams in a short space of time, this could take some time management, but I think it's important. It could be as simple as watching a couple of episodes of your favourite TV programme, cooking your favourite meal for dinner, or allowing yourself to take an hour out for a relaxing bath and pamper session. Whatever it may be, you deserve a treat.
I hope these tips gave you some new ideas and aren't just things that you've heard before!
Good luck, remember that exams and grades aren't everything, and just try you best.