Exam Period: An Important Learning Process

The statement ‘enjoy your exam’ sounds crazy doesn’t it?! Exams are associated with revision, pain, nausea, headaches, stress, misery, blurry eyes, red bull, excess coffee, constraint, memes of foreboding memes such as ‘Brace yourself Exams are Coming’, last minute revision blitzes and most importantly pressure to get results.

Undoubtedly results are of paramount importance and should never be discounted, however the notion that the time of revision is regarded as some horror from the Dark Ages is misplaced. It is all a matter of perception and there are many things you can learn about how you work and learn (not simply from an educational/topical perspective) as a person. Some of us prefer to work in bite-sized chunks over an extended period of time, while others prefer to consolidate the work effectively in a short period of time. Exam period teaches you about the balance between discipline and reward. It is surprising how these habits can translate into the workplace.

A genius may pass his exam or you may even get lucky if you cram, however the ones who benefit will be those who develop (whether or not it is short-term or long-term revision) a scheduled routine, discipline themselves to work at a certain point during the day and being able have a normal life outside revision schedule.

For me pulling all-nighters, drinking energy drinks, and cramming was never a realistic option, nor was the idea of being up all day revising 8 hours straight a day. Exams are a lesson in juggling your work life and your personal life, an opportunity to find out how you work and how you shouldn’t work. Both ends of spectrum of horrifically obsessing and stressing over revision, not eating properly, socializing and not exercising or turning up hungover to the library, blagging exams, or cramming because you were procrastinating for two weeks will spill over into long-term habits, even if they are small. Can you imagine cramming work for the rest of your life, you would crash and burn!

If you have the tendency to stress, eat well and exercise well, discipline yourself to stop. If an exam revision day does not go well, don’t kick yourself for it. There are always days when things don’t always go to plan, ensure you have flexibility. My favorite quote that encapsulates how you should approach exams came from the Telegraph: ‘Exam Advice: Relax, and go with the flow’ . The article itself was aimed at students about to commence their A-Level and GCSE examinations, however when you combine with attitude with discipline, and reward (a pint at the end of the day, gym work-out, a hour of your favourite TV series, even a day off at the weekend!) exams will feel less of a chore than a great learning process.

I’ll finish up with my own personal tips for exams:

1. General Routine: Be flexible, know which hours you operate most efficiently and generally stick to that schedule (be it night-time or day), and ensure you have other things to besides work. Reward yourself with breaks frequently. Dare to have a day off if you have done enough work or revised yourself into the ground! Don’t be obsessive with schedule.

2. To take a Break?: Know your limits, if you can only do a certain amount of revision a day, stick to that. There is no point revising if you aren’t concentrating. If you procrastinate frequently discipline yourself and do revision in bite-sized chunks (i.e 1 hour revise, 10 minute break).

3. Eat Well: Don’t live on toast, cornflakes, chocolate bars, coffee, teas, crisps and biscuits. Ensure you have a well-balanced healthy diet.

4. Sleep Well: Go to bed, listen to some soothing music, have a bath or shower before bed, read a non-revision related book before you go to bed

5. Relax: Stress is an extra worry that isn’t needed during exam period and it shouldn’t be what motivates you to succeed. Relax and look forward to the sweet rewards at the end of the exam period. Matthew Williams

2 thoughts on “Exam Period: An Important Learning Process

  1. Joanne says:

    I would agree that bad habits that are cultivated at exam time are harder to break further down the line. A self-confessed “crammer”, I became a deadline junkie and it took me a long time to break the habit. However, what I came to realise is that this approach meant I was missing out on other things on the run up to exams.

    By my final year I had established a better routine where I was more prepared in advance. However, old habits die hard and it took me working in a busy office as a legal assistant to finally break the habit. You need to leave yourself room for maneuver if other things crop up last minute. If you’re constantly treading a deadline, you may miss the opportunity to work on something exciting or attend a fun social event.

    I still get a thrill from the fast-approaching deadline, but I have learned to work at a steadier pace so I have the opportunity to do all the things I want to do.

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