With exam season fast upon us students of all ages are preparing for exams. No matter what age we are, we tend to fall into the same traps every time, setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves whether we are taking our first school exams or university finals. Here is a look at our repeated expectations versus the reality:
I will develop a love of learning.
Especially as we get further through our education, we keep waiting for that moment when it stops feeling like hard work because we just love the learning so much. Our passion for our subject drives us to burn the candle at both ends. We forget to eat, drink or breath because our love of imaginary numbers or Renaissance art makes us so giddy. Except it doesn’t happen, does it? And yet again, revision feels like a chore. I’m pretty sure it’s possible to drive the love out of absolutely anything by putting an exam at the end of it. How to get over it: Don’t wait for your love of your subject to ensure you rack up the hours needed to develop the skills, understanding and knowledge needed to pass your exams. Sadly the only way forward is sheer hard work. It doesn’t mean you’ll never enjoy it; it’s just natural not to enjoy the prospect of rote learning and exam halls.
I will understand everything.
Even if we don’t love them, we expect to understand our subjects in the run up to exams. We’ve paid attention, we’ve completed all our assignments and even made some pretty intelligent contributions in class–yet we find ourselves staring at our textbooks and class notes utterly bemused. How to get over it: Prioritise your revision. It can be tempting to keep covering the topics that we do understand. This makes us feel good, but our time might be better invested brushing up on some of the trickier areas. Take time to learn good sources of additional support for the moments when problems seem intractable. Are there any good websites or are teachers/lecturers on hand for revision queries? It can also help to revise with friends. Challenging yourself to teach a topic to a friend is a great way to test and expand your understanding, and sometimes friends will have a different take on things that will help a difficult concept click for you.
I will write the perfect revision timetable.
There is no such thing as the perfect revision timetable, but we can often fall into the trap of spending hours painstakingly crafting a colour-coded timetable which accounts for every single minute of the day. How to get over it: The best revision timetable is a flexible one. Make sure you don’t overdo your revision for your earlier exams at the expense of the later exams and be ready to adapt your revision timetable as you go if you are working more or less quickly than you’d hoped. The best revision timetable isn’t the one that wins a prize for presentation, but one that helps you feel confident you will be able to get to an adequate understanding of all your subjects before you enter the exam hall.
I will revise long before exams.
No cramming for me. No, I’m going to start revising months and months before and take it slow and steady. Slow…yes…steady…not so much… and now there’s no time and so much to do and…ARGH! How to get over it: It’s reassuring to know that this is a situation that almost every student has found themselves in repeatedly. Take time to carefully prioritise and make the best use of the time that you do have. It’s never too late to start.
My hard work will pay off when I enter my exams feeling cool as a cucumber.
So we get it together (albeit a bit later than planned) and manage to get in some quality revision. And we’re ready. So we should exude quiet confidence as we approach the exam hall. Except we don’t, do we? Even the most perfectly prepared student’s heart does a double backflip as the exam hall doors loom. How to get over it: Learn a few tricks to help your body relax and calm down, such as breathing skills and mindfulness.
I will look after my physical health.
We know that we’ll do better in our exams if we’ve been getting enough sleep, eating well and getting some exercise and we keep meaning to make a start on healthy living, only suddenly it’s exam time and we’ve eaten nothing but junk for six weeks and can’t remember the last time we ventured outside or slept for more than three hours straight. How to get over it: Try to make it as easy as possible to be a little kinder to yourself. Set yourself a bedtime. Get up time and try to stick to it–you’ll sleep better if you have a set routine, and you’ll revise better and retain more if you are well rested. Make healthy snacks available rather than junk and build revision breaks into your timetable–use these to step right away from your work. A walk around the block is a great way to get a little exercise and reinvigorate your tired grey matter.
My final exam will finish with a flourish and fanfare.
The countdown to the moment we walk out of our final exam starts way before we walk into our first exam. It seems like it should be a moment when the world stops spinning and everyone pauses momentarily to congratulate us on a job well done. Except that’s not how it works. Everyone else is kind of busy and our last exam just isn’t as big of a deal to the rest of the world as it is to us. Besides, we’re so exhausted that even if there were fireworks and fanfares we would be too busy lying in a darkened room to appreciate them. How to get over it: Plan how you will mark the end of your exams so you have something to look forward to. But make sure you build in a little rest and relaxation time before any crazy partying commences or you may just find yourself partying straight to your first early night in six weeks.
I will fail completely.
Exams are over, and you’re waiting for the results. You’ve spoken to everyone else about what answers they put and are consequently convinced you got pretty much every question in every exam wrong. You’re sure you failed and you dread your results. How to get over it: Generally speaking, this is an irrational fear. If you’ve prepared well, you’re unlikely to fail. Dissecting your answers post exam isn’t helpful and just acts to raise your anxiety levels. Start focusing on the next exam as you walk out of the last rather than picking it apart. And once the last exam is over, enjoy your freedom. If failure is a genuine possibility, have a think about what your next steps should be prior to picking up your results. You’ll feel less stressed and more in control if you have an action plan you can follow. Whatever exams you’re preparing for, good luck. And remember, you can only do your best.
Featured photo credit: Jeff Sheldon via download.unsplash.com