Palms sweaty, knees weak, arms heavy, mom’s spaghetti. Help! I-am-not-ready-for-this…
I can almost taste the tension in the room right before the exam papers are handed out. Someone is muttering under their breath, someone’s leg is jumping like crazy, some have their face in their hands, shaking. And, what about me? What do I do? Well, I tell myself, “Relax, take a deep breath, alright, let’s do this.”
Exams, the most dreaded part of the term and no-one escapes. For better or worse it’s part of the system, which means we must face it and come out the other side victorious.
My best friend (who’s studying the same degree), always points at me and exclaims – “Look at him! He’s all calm and chilled. He’s not stressed” – and this indeed may look the case. But I can assure you it doesn’t mean I’m not stressed. I’ve just developed a different way of handling it.
After all these years of sitting exams, I honestly still don’t know what the best method is. Everyone develops their own strategies, and each one has its own perks. For me, it is more of a mental battle with stress, pressure and general laziness, but for what it’s worth here are my top three tips on how I face them down
1. Be prepared, be confident
Being ready is obvious, but confidence is also crucial. You’ve got to walk in there with positive thoughts, have your mind clear and firing on all cylinders. If you let the stress get to you, you’ve failed before you even sit down.
2. Temet Nosce
“Temet Nosce”, as the Great Oracle once said to Neo*. I’m sure you’re fluent in Latin, but if you’re a bit rusty it means “Know thyself”.
How do you prepare for the exam? How do you study? Knowing yourself and how you learn is important because everyone is different. Psychologists have investigated four primary styles of learning: visual, auditory, reading, and kinesthetic. Which one are you?
As a kinesthetic learner, I learn through practical, hands-on experiences. I also have a terrible memory of words and phrases so before a big test that requires a lot of memorising, you’ll find my bedroom wall plastered with notes. Instead of remembering exactly what is on each piece of paper, I can imagine where the paper is stuck on my wall. This is a technique called spatial memory and I find it incredibly helpful.
3. Enjoy yourself
Lastly, enjoy what you do. Or, find breaks in between where you can enjoy yourself. Whether you need to find the best place to study, or find good people to study with**, get yourself a good environment such as the quiet focused areas in the main library, or the wide-open spaces in the Design Studio. (That’s my favorite spot!)
As I look around at the strained faces and slightly bloodshot eyes, it can feel like everything we have worked for is hinging on this exam. But hey, we made it this far, how hard can it be?
*The Matrix. Dir. Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski. Warner Bros. Pictures, 1999.
** Special shout out to Khush and Suriya, who carried me through pumps, water droplets, birds and so much more.