Most of the buildings at my university were really ugly. I’d sit in the library for 12 hours at a time, revelling in my lack of productivity, wondering if there was a better way to study. I thought that working hard meant indulging in too many sugary snacks to keep awake, getting distracted by friends in the library and revising everything from a text book. As a Fresher, I hated exam season, but by final year, I’d learned to love it. Crazy, I know, but here’s how…
1. Show up
There is a tendency to stop showing up to church during exam season because, let’s face it, our calendars are packed. It’s easy to believe that spending 3 hours revising is a better use of time than spending 3 hours in a service.
But there is something about worshipping, connecting with community and serving that takes our focus off of our own ability and stress, and puts control back into your Dad’s hands. 3 hours in church may be 3 hours not studying, but it’s a reminder that through Christ, you can do anything (Philippians 4:13). You can approach your exams with confidence and courage, and your uni work will be better for it.
2. Working Hard vs Working Well
I believed that if I didn’t spend every waking hour in the library, talking to no one and having no fun, I wasn’t working hard enough. It wasn’t until I got to the end of the day and realised that I hadn’t taken any information in, that I realised the difference between working hard and working well. Working as hard as you can is exhausting and isolating. Working as well as you can is fulfilling and fun.
My love for coffee shops started when I realised that working hard could look like spending 2 hours with my notebook and a latte revising lecture notes. My university buildings didn’t spark creativity, so I found a way that I could enjoy studying. This was through choosing a location I enjoyed, a method of study I found motivating (eg. lots of colours, pretty paper and washi tape - yes, I’m that girl), and giving myself time slots for studying. I set a timer for 45 mins, with breaks in between. There are so many ways to enjoy studying, so give yourself time and grace to find a way that fits you. But don’t believe the lie that working hard means giving up the enjoyment of your course - find a way that fits you.
3. It’s still possible to have a life.
Shocking, I know. The night before one of my exams, I went to the cinema with my housemates. Whilst many of my course mates were at home cramming, I enjoyed a Tango Ice Blast and a movie. This wasn’t because I was in denial about the exam or unwise about how I used my time, but because I knew the importance of still doing the things you love even within exam season.
Sure, social life may have to take a bit of a backseat for a few weeks, but with good planning ahead and choosing to do things that give you energy instead of take it, you’ll find that having a life outside of exams is achievable.
4. Who can you invite?
Your course mates are going through the same stress you are, except maybe worse, because they might not know the hope and strength that Jesus brings. In the lead up to my final year exams, a Christian friend and I decided to host a small group for our course mates. It was a study group starting with prayer, and conversations about exams were underpinned by hope instead of stress.
"Culture tells us that exam season must be characterised by stress and anxiety, but Jesus promises that he will be with us in every season."
As a current student going through exams, you are best placed to offer the hope of Jesus, and demonstrate that he cares about your friends’ hearts as well as their results. If you have to study late, why not invite some friends over to study with you? Why not pray for them?
Culture tells us that exam season must be characterised by stress and anxiety, but Jesus promises that he will be with us in every season. He promises that to me, he promises that to you, and he promises that to your course mates. Do they know that promise? How can you show them?