Taking exams can often result in a lot of anxiety and stress, especially if you have not invested much time and effort during the year because this will make you to burn the midnight oil before each test. However, most students don’t realize how easy it is to manage stress at exam time by working as per a plan during the school year. This time management not only helps you keep a cool mind at exam time, but it also goes a long way in improving your productivity and results. Here's a few things to keep in mind.
Tips for preparing for exams
• Get an extra notebook at the beginning of the year. Use it to write summaries and notes about a chapter that you complete in class. At exam time, you simply need to get this notebook out and read the key points. Getting a separate notebook for each subject is advisable.
• Make use of your gadgets: If you have a cell phone or a digital voice recorder, you should record your notes regularly and listen to them whenever you have some spare time. It will feel like you're listening to a storybook, and if you concentrate, you'll find it easier to memorize the key points. Many researchers believe that listening to something during sleep can enhance memory. So, give that a shot!
• Take advantage of memory tool: Don’t shy away from using cluster maps, mind maps PowerPoints or other available memory aids. Mind maps are extremely useful during exams and are ideal for memory retrieving.
• Research the subject: As you complete a topic in the class, you should go to the library or use the Internet to learn more about the subject. Don't forget to take notes because you'll have to use them before and at exam time.
• Avoid rough drafting for essays: It's not easy, but you have to develop a habit of doing the good copy straight away. At exam time, you won't have enough time to start with a rough draft and then fix any discrepancies. Just keep in mind that your copy should be neat and have no spellings or punctuation errors – and of course, the information should make sense.
• Make a timetable: It's important to make a timetable for your exams and stick to it. If you follow it right, you'll be well prepared by the time your exams come around.
• Maintain a record of topics: When you finish a topic, you should keep a record to differentiate between those topics that have already been covered and the ones that still need attention.
• Select a good time to study: The best time to study is when you're not too hungry, or too tired. But, avoid going for long study sessions -- it's better to take some rest, in every 20 minutes or so.
• Be a part of a study group: This helps you share ideas, thoughts and notes. You'll also be able to solve a particular problem with ease. Just make sure you don't do something that is not meant to do in groups – like a particular assignment, research paper, etc.
• Take 'trial' exams: You can pick one of your past tests and do it again within a limited time – the way you'd do in a 'real' exam. This goes a long way in getting you into the exam mode.
• Make a plan for academic success: Not only is it important to make a plan for success, it is also crucial to execute it no matter if you're feeling weak, strong, motivated, energized, tired, focused or distracted. Remember, you need to make the most out of the time in your hand.
• Sleep well: You fail to concentrate better when you don’t sleep for at least six hours every night. Aim for 8-10 hours of sleep to feel energized in the morning.
• Start with difficult subjects: When studying, it's a good idea to start with the most difficult or the least enjoyable subject. Never leave it until the end.
• Set a timetable and follow it: You'll find it a bit difficult to follow a daily timetable in the beginning, but it will soon become a practice, and then a habit.
Tips for Exam Day
• Relax your nerves and try not to panic on your exam day. Read your notes a few times on the day before the exam.
• You can maintain your focus for only 45 minutes or so; therefore, it's a good idea to study in short sessions.
• Maintain a positive attitude towards your exams and you'll feel less stressed out. Take your exams as large quizzes to relax yourself.
• Fuel yourself with a healthy breakfast on the exam day. It's found in a study that females tend to do better in exams if they are slightly full, whereas males perform better if they are slightly less than full.
• Don’t push yourself to study more at the last minute. If you keep waiting until a week before the exam, you'll always be in a state of panic.
• Make sure your study notes are 'complete' at least a couple of weeks before the test.
• Get some past papers and complete them as if you're sitting in the real exam. This gives you a good idea about a topic that needs revision.
• You have to monitor your retention levels regularly, and for this, you should reproduce the academic material from your memory. This works as a self-testing mechanism and keeps the material fresh in your memory.
• It pays to make your own reviewer. Create a list of keywords related to every topic and highlight them using different colors of ink. Use available resources with your reviewer to make things easier.
• To relieve stress, you can try a calming antidote, like an herbal tea. But be careful, an overdose will make you drowsy.
• Avoid stress, as it negatively affects your mind. Even if you haven’t studied well, you should not panic and give every question some time. The chances are that you will remember something your teacher had taught you in the class.
• Sometimes, you can maintain your focus by internalizing information actively. A good technique for this is to follow the text with a pencil and whisper it to yourself.
• Spend some time to find different ways and associations to connect the new info with the old one. This helps make it quick to recall info whenever you want. You can also use specific methods to memorize info. For instance, the use of acronyms, numbers, wild stories, poems, outlandish mental pictures, etc., will keep the material alive in your mind.
• When sitting in the exam, you should avoid blanks at all cost. It's better to make an intelligent guess and pick the closest answer. Once you complete the paper, review your answers again and make changes if necessary.
• Never waste time, avoid alcohol, pay attention to your diet, and stay away from social networking sites.
• If you have not planned and prepared well for the test, you should not expect a miracle to happen.
• Never cheat – it's unfair and offensive!
• Too much study is equally harmful, so take a day off occasionally.
• Mind blanks are frighteningand they can happen in any subject. If you're experiencing one such situation in the exam room, simply close your eyes, inhale some air for five seconds, and then let it come out through the mouth. Keep repeating until you feel better.
• Failing an exam is really a shameful, traumatic and embarrassing experience, so plan well and prepare yourself in advance to pass with pride.