Exam season is officially underway, and tomorrow I’m heading back to Leicester to do my final stretch of revision before my own exam. However, even though I can revise pretty well, even with the lovely weather that’s decided to come back around, me and exams do not get along.
Mental health issues can be particularly problematic around stressful situations, so naturally anyone with mental illness may find these periods upsetting and, from personal experience, feel like you’ll never give your best in an exam with your brain turning to mush and your hands unable to stop shaking. That being said, I know nobody likes exams, so I wanted to give some simple tips I’ve used to try and produce my best performance in exams (providing you’ve done the revision beforehand of course).
1.Prepare and Arrive Early:
Seems like an obvious one but arriving 15 minutes before your exam starts can really help calm your nerves. Make sure you know exactly where you’re going in advance, and have an idea of how long it’ll take to get there; take into account if you’re just walking or taking public transport. When you arrive at the venue pull out all the things you need, which may just be a black pen, and put away electronics for a few minutes prior. I often like to pace a little, no getting in anyone’s way, but just so I can get rid of some energy.
When you take your seat you’ll have a few minutes before you need to start then exam. Get everything done as instructed, e.g. writing your ID number on your answer booklet, then simply sit and try and relax. I do several things to try and relax myself, knowing as grounding techniques. Grounding techniques are super simple, from simply regulating your breathing, or planting your feet on the ground and your palms flat on the desk for a few minutes. I also like to engage my 5 senses; thinking of 5 things I can see, 4 things I can hear, 3 things I can touch, 2 things I can smell, and 1 thing I can taste…which is usually just water.
3.It’s Not a Race:
Believe it or not, especially in a humanities subject, quantity doesn’t always equal quality. Although you need to use time effectively you can often miss the point of a question, or feel lost in your answer if you race away the second you’re allowed to open your paper. Take a minute to read your questions carefully, and think about how you might answer them (I’d always suggest answering the question you’re more confident on first). I’ve never been a huge planner in exams, as I’m quite a spontaneous writer, but I’ll always write down any good points that immediately spring to mind. Anything I really need to remember I also write down; for example, during my A-level Maths exams, the first thing I would do was to write down all the equations I had memorized, so then I could simply look at the piece of paper when a question required them.
4.Take a Break:
Now, I’m not saying we’re ever blessed with copious amounts of time in exams, but a minute or two of reflection between essay style questions can really help calm you down. Take a few sips of water, and stretch out your fingers. This may also be a great opportunity to have a quick scan for obvious spelling and grammatical errors in your work. Again, think about what you’re answering, and once you’re ready put pen to paper.
5.Ignorance is Bliss:
This applies during and after the exam, but ultimately if you don’t wish to share your experience of an exam you don’t have too! Although I have now arranged a way to not be surrounded by my peers in exams, I know how daunting it can be when you can hear infinite scribbling, or the dreaded whisper ‘Could I have some more paper?’; the best way around this is to try and block it out. Easier said than done but at the end of the day this is your exam, and in this moment only your progress is what matters. I reiterate that quantity doesn’t always equally quality, and who knows maybe the person asking for more paper has handwriting three times bigger than yours; but that okay, you’re both getting through the exam your way!
I don’t really talk much about exams once I’ve left the venue, some people do, but whatever you choose it’s okay; it’s perfectly fine to say ‘It was okay, but I don’t want to talk about it; let’s go and grab lunch’, your friends will understand. You’ve done the exam and you should be really proud, so treat yourself to a nice meal, a drink perhaps, or just a nap if you’re anything like me- you’ve earned it.
No matter what I say, I know that exams can be a horribly rough time for everyone, but I definitely think there’s ways to get through it. Just think of the wonderful summer ahead; you can do this!
Take Care Everyone, I’ll Speak to You All Soon!