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8 Unrealistic Expectations Students Always Have Before Exams

8 Unrealistic Expectations Students Always Have Before Exams

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Last Updated on September 11, 2019

Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

How often do you feel overwhelmed and disorganized in life, whether at work or home? We all seem to struggle with time management in some area of our life; one of the most common phrases besides “I love you” is “I don’t have time”. Everyone suggests working from a to-do list to start getting your life more organized, but why do these lists also have a negative connotation to them?

Let’s say you have a strong desire to turn this situation around with all your good intentions—you may then take out a piece of paper and pen to start tackling this intangible mess with a to-do list. What usually happens, is that you either get so overwhelmed seeing everything on your list, which leaves you feeling worse than you did before, or you make the list but are completely stuck on how to execute it effectively.

To-do lists can work for you, but if you are not using them effectively, they can actually leave you feeling more disillusioned and stressed than you did before. Think of a filing system: the concept is good, but if you merely file papers away with no structure or system, the filing system will have an adverse effect. It’s the same with to-do lists—you can put one together, but if you don’t do it right, it is a fruitless exercise.

Why Some People Find That General To-Do Lists Don’t Work?

Most people find that general to-do lists don’t work because:

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  • They get so overwhelmed just by looking at all the things they need to do.
  • They don’t know how to prioritize the items on list.
  • They feel that they are continuously adding to their list but not reducing it.
  • There’s a sense of confusion seeing home tasks mixed with work tasks.

Benefits of Using a To-Do List

However, there are many advantages working from a to-do list:

  • You have clarity on what you need to get done.
  • You will feel less stressed because all your ‘to do’s are on paper and out of your mind.
  • It helps you to prioritize your actions.
  • You don’t overlook so many tasks and forget anything.
  • You feel more organized.
  • It helps you with planning.

4 Golden Rules to Make a To-Do List Work

Here are my golden rules for making a “to-do” list work:

1. Categorize

Studies have shown that your brain gets overwhelmed when it sees a list of 7 or 8 options; it wants to shut down.[1] For this reason, you need to work from different lists. Separate them into different categories and don’t have more than 7 or 8 tasks on each one.

It might work well for you to have a “project” list, a “follow-up” list, and a “don’t forget” list; you will know what will work best for you, as these titles will be different for everybody.

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2. Add Estimations

You don’t merely need to know what has to be done, but how long it will take as well in order to plan effectively.

Imagine on your list you have one task that will take 30 minutes, another that could take 1 hour, and another that could take 4 hours. You need to know the moment you look at the task, otherwise you undermine your planning, so add an extra column to your list and include your estimation of how long you think the task will take, and be realistic!

Tip: If you find it a challenge to estimate accurately, then start by building this skill on a daily basis. Estimate how long it will take to get ready, cook dinner, go for a walk, etc., and then compare this to the actual time it took you. You will start to get more accurate in your estimations.

3. Prioritize

To effectively select what you should work on, you need to take into consideration: priority, sequence and estimated time. Add another column to your list for priority. Divide your tasks into four categories:

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  • Important and urgent
  • Not urgent but important
  • Not important but urgent
  • Not important or urgent

You want to work on tasks that are urgent and important of course, but also, select some tasks that are important and not urgent. Why? Because these tasks are normally related to long-term goals, and when you only work on tasks that are urgent and important, you’ll feel like your day is spent putting out fires. You’ll end up neglecting other important areas which most often end up having negative consequences.

Most of your time should be spent on the first two categories.

4.  Review

To make this list work effectively for you, it needs to become a daily tool that you use to manage your time and you review it regularly. There is no point in only having the list to record everything that you need to do, but you don’t utilize it as part of your bigger time management plan.

For example: At the end of every week, review the list and use it to plan the week ahead. Select what you want to work on taking into consideration priority, time and sequence and then schedule these items into your calendar. Golden rule in planning: don’t schedule more than 75% of your time.

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Bottom Line

So grab a pen and paper and give yourself the gift of a calm and clear mind by unloading everything in there and onto a list as now, you have all the tools you need for it to work. Knowledge is useless unless it is applied—how badly do you want more time?

To your success!

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Featured photo credit: Emma Matthews via unsplash.com

Reference

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