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How to do well on a final examination

How to do well on a final examination

Saying the word “final” is usually enough to bring a dreadful silence over a classroom. Final examinations can indeed be scary stuff. Studying ahead of time and getting a good night’s sleep before an exam are two good ways to defuse stress and do well. Here are five more suggestions for doing well:

1. Overprepare. That might seem like a poor way to study. But over many years of teaching, I’ve found it to be sound advice. It’s much wiser to take an exam too seriously and find it easier than you expected than to wish–when it’s too late–that you’d studied more. Think of the baseball player who swings two or three bats before stepping up to the plate. His on-deck time is what makes his work with one bat stronger.

Don’t confuse overpreparing with cramming. If you overprepare, do so in advance, so that you can get a good night’s sleep before the exam.

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2. Bring several writing instruments. If your one pen or pencil fails and you need to borrow a replacement, you’ll lose time, annoy others, and look silly.

3. Use your time wisely.

Wear a watch so that you can manage time on your own terms. Many professors and proctors will mark the time on the blackboard, but glancing at a watch is better than depending upon the click of the chalk–distracting at best, stressful at worst–that lets you know that another chunk of time has vanished.

Map out your work. When your professor talks about the exam, make sure that it’s clear how each part will count toward the whole. If, for instance, you have two hours and an essay that’s worth half the exam, give yourself an hour to plan, write, and review your essay.

It’s not unusual for students in the blur of exam week to lose track of when an exam has started and will end. So map out your work not only in minutes but with starting and ending points. Then you can’t lose track of where you are. For instance,

2:15-3:15: long essay
3:15-3:45: short essay
3:45-4:45: identifies

You can work out these details beforehand and write them discreetly in the corner of an exam booklet when you begin.

Don’t rush. This advice is especially important if your exam falls late in exam week, when many students have already left campus. Just take your time; your vacation will be waiting for you when you’re done.

4. Elaborate. If you have a choice between making a point briefly and elaborating, choose to elaborate. A professor reading a final exam is reading to “get to done”–to assign a grade and move on to the next exam in the stack. So you should show your knowledge and understanding in all appropriate ways. As I tell my students, I like reading an exam that lets me say “Okay, okay, you know the material. Enough!”

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This suggestion assumes that whatever you’re elaborating on is relevant to the question at hand. Irrelevancies won’t help your case. Nor will mere bull, which is altogether different from knowledge and understanding.

5. Don’t panic. In the worst-case exam scenario, an exam-taker goes on automatic, misreading questions, skipping key directions (e.g., “Choose only one”), and producing verbal babble as the time zooms by. It’s important to stay calm enough to focus on the work there is to do. You might visualize yourself sitting down, reading the questions, planning your responses, and doing well. Another way to avoid panicking is to remind yourself how much time you really have. A two-hour exam equals four episodes of a situation comedy–a lot of time when you look at it that way.

As this fall semester comes to an end, I’d like to thank Leon for the chance to contribute to lifehack.org. And I’d like to extend best wishes to all readers (students and faculty) contending with final exams.

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Michael Leddy teaches college English and has published widely as a poet and critic. He blogs at Orange Crate Art.

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Last Updated on December 30, 2018

How to Become an Early Riser and Stay Energetic Throughout the Day

How to Become an Early Riser and Stay Energetic Throughout the Day

This article is the 2nd in the 6-part series, Lifehack Challenge: Become An Early Riser In 5 Days.

If you’d like to become an early riser, there are some things you should know before you run off to set your oft-ignored alarm clock.

So how to become an early riser?

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Here are five tips I’ve discovered to be most helpful in making the transition from erratic sleeper to early morning wizard:

1. Choose to get up before you go to sleep

You’re not very good at making decisions when you’ve just woken up. You were in the middle of a dream in which [insert celebrity crush of choice here] is serving you breakfast in bed only to be rudely awakened by the harsh tones of your alarm clock. You’re frustrated, angry, confused, and surprised. This is not the time to be making decisions about whether or not you should stay in bed! And yet, most of us leave the first decision of our day to be made in a blur of partial wakefulness.

No more! If you want to be a consistently early riser, try making your decision to rise at a specific time before you go to sleep the night before. This frees you from making the decision in the morning when you’ve just woken up. Instead of making a decision, you have only to follow through on your decision from the night before. Easier said than done? Of course. But only for the first few times. Eventually your need for raw willpower to get out of bed will diminish and you’ll be the proud parent of a new habit!

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Steve Pavlina suggests you practice getting out of bed during the day[1] to get a few of the “practice sessions” out of the way without the early morning fog in your head.

2. Have a plan for your extra time

Let’s say you’ve actually made it out of bed 2 hours before you normally would. Now what? What are you going to do with all this time you’ve discovered in your day? If you don’t have something planned to do with your extra time, you risk falling for the temptation of a “morning nap” that wipes out all the work you put into getting up.

What to do? Before you go to bed, make a quick note of what you’d like to get done during your extra hours the following day. Do you have a book to write, paper to read, or garage to clean? Make a plan for your early hours and you’ll do more than protect yourself from backsliding into bed. You’ll get things done and those results will fuel your desire to build rising early into a habit!

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3. Make rising early a social activity

While there’s obvious value in joining a Lifehack Challenge in order to get you started as an early riser, your internet buddies just don’t have enough pull to make your new habit stick in the long term. The same cannot be said for the people you spend time with as part of your early morning routine.

Sure, you could choose to read blogs for two hours every morning. But wouldn’t it be great to join an early breakfast club, running group, or play chess in the park at 5am? The more people you get involved in making your new habit a daily part of your life, the easier it’ll be to succeed.

4. Don’t use an alarm that makes you angry

If we’re all wired differently, why do we all insist on torturing ourselves with the same sort of alarm each morning? I spent years trying to wake up before my alarm went off so I wouldn’t have to hear it. I got pretty good, too. Then I started using a cellphone as my alarm clock and quickly realized that different ring tones irritated me less but worked just as well to wake me up. I now use the ring tone alarm as a back up for my bedside lamp plugged in to a timer.

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When the bright light doesn’t work, the cellphone picks up the slack and I wake up on time. The lesson learned? Experiment a bit and see what works best for you. Light, sound, smells, temperature, or even some contraption that dumps water on you might be more pleasant than your old alarm clock. Give something new a try!

5. Get your blood flowing right after waking

If you don’t have a neighbor you can pick fights with at 5am you’ll have to settle with a more mundane exercise. It doesn’t take much to get your blood flowing and chase the sleep from your head. Just pick something you don’t mind doing and go through the motions until your heart rate is up. Jumping rope, push-ups, crunches, or a few minutes of yoga are typically enough to do the trick. (Just don’t do anything your doctor hasn’t approved.)

If you live in a beautiful part of the world like me, you might want to use a bit of your early morning to go for a walk and enjoy the beauty of the world around you. If you have a coffee shop open within walking distance, dragging yourself out of bed for a cup of coffee to savor on your walk home as the world wakes around you is a wonderful experience. Try it!

More Resources for an Energetic Morning

Featured photo credit: Frank Vex via unsplash.com

Reference

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