The University Year has certain key times of stress like Freshers’ Week, but also Exam Time. Many courses have some continuous assessment, which can add to the pressure students feel they are under, but even so things tend to come to a head at the end of each semester – in the New Year and just after Easter. Not even the promise of long summer breaks can help, as this is also stressful for some people!
Planning for exams
‘A stitch in time saves nine’ – you may think I am sounding like your mother, but this is a true saying. A little bit of preparation can go a long way.
- Get some help from your Universities study skills centre – many people, especially mature students, feel very out of practice when it comes to exams and essays
- Make a revision diary – work out how many modules/lectures you have to cover and set a maximum time per module/lecture so you don’t run out of time
- Leave some slack in case some things take longer than you expect or something unexpected comes up, like a family illness
- Arrange to meet with one or two course mates to compare ideas and ‘hot topics’ – share the work of planning for these by sharing essay outlines
I had the most wonderful revision diary when I was at University. The trouble was it took me three weeks to make and by then it was out of date! Putting off unpleasant tasks is common – they are unpleasant, other things are more attractive and it can give you an ‘excuse’ if you do badly as ‘you didn’t work much’. However, it will mean you get worse results. Try some of these tips: break down the work into manageable bits, give yourself treats as you go along, try different strategies – mind mapping, colours, sitting outside or in the library. But please make a start…
Do you find your mind wandering? Hard work does not have to be continuous work, especially if you plan ahead, so: take regular breaks [this varies for each person so do what works for you], use a technique like saying STOP out loud if you find your mind wandering [but you may not want to do this in the library!], allow a little time for ‘worrying’ each day – this is OK, use active learning techniques [organise, mind-map, categorise, tabulate, summarise, discuss – don’t just read].
It’s the big day or maybe the night before and you are a bag of nerves – sweaty, nauseated, trembling… You find some good relaxation techniques on the next few pages so try these, but you may also want to:
- Arrange to walk to the exam with a friend, or plan a meal afterwards. Don’t talk work!
- Avoid too much caffeine the night before – sleep will help more than that last cramming session. Cramming also fills your brain with the most recent detail, obscuring other things you know.
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