#218 Learning – S1 E7 – Preparing for exams

Exams, the unpleasant part of being at university.
Exams, the unpleasant part of life.
Exams, no one likes them, everyone could life without them.

Exams are an integral part of our world. Why? That is actually a good question. I don’t see the point in them anyways, but this will be a topic for another time. Today, we just accept the exams as a part of our life and try to deal with them as good as possible.

Depending on your personality, exams can be a huge thing for you, or just a short little test at the end of the semester, with nothing to worry about. In case you are depending on a good result, or actually need to pass the exams that are in front of you, you might feel some pressure, the anxiety and everything else that follows that path.

Disclaimer: Being more on the afraid side of life, exams are not very easy for me. I feel the pressure, the stress, can not sleep well and all the things that you might or might not feel as well. Therefore, this is oriented and specifically made for people with these issues. But for sure, it will help others as well.

Step 1: Get the organization right

When is the exam? Where is it? What will be a part of the test? (I love that one, will be another blog post topic) What are the things I can carry with me? Do I need a calculator? How much time do I have? How does the test look like? Talk to the professors, or at least listen carefully to what they are telling you about the test. There might be some hints somewhere down the road.

The more information you have, the better. This is mainly to make sure, that you got the whole picture. You know what you can expect, you understand what the professor likes to hear or not, you analyzed his behavior, his opinion about certain topics, his mindset towards situations and problems related to the topic of the exam. Is it a more critical approach towards the topic, or do they expect just the hard facts? Do they demand from you to get the bigger picture, or is it enough to understand the stuff they talked about during the class?

Step 2: Plan your time!

The goal is to work like a professional athlete. You have your competition, in this case of course your exam at a certain day and at a certain time. This is the moment where you need your peak performance. It doesn’t matter if you are able to understand the topic one week after, or one week before and lose the details until the exam is coming up. For sure, this is not the easiest thing to do. Because you should neither over pace, nor do not do enough. Therefore some experience will be necessary, but you get the hang of it after a while. What I don’t want to see is a tight learning schedule or something like that, where you planned every single hour of your learning adventure. This will of course simply put not work, but also increases the pressure and your negative feelings, in case you can not stick to your plan.

Step 3: Understand the topic!

Learning something by hearth may be an alternative option, but at least from my experience, there are way too many pages and things you can actually learn, therefore this is not the best solution, right?

3.1 You go through the whole thing once or twice and write down some notes.
3.2 You go through your notes, try to understand what it is all about.
3.3 Ignore parts you understand well and focus on the stuff you do not get by the first time. (Work on increasing the quality of your notes, going back to the script in certain areas and understand the topics)
3.4 Be able to explain the whole topic to either an actual person, or an imaginary one. Only when being able to do that, you really have understood the topic, believe me. It will make issues you still have very clear.

Step 4: Use your intuition.

What is the hardest part of the subject? Where are the difficulties? What are the parts you don’t want to see in the exam. Well, make sure that you understand those topics. For sure, it makes much more fun to focus on the stuff you already know, but do you know what? You already know that stuff. What you need to do is focus on the stuff that you don’t understand yet.

Step 5: Test your knowledge under similar conditions.

For sure, the stuff is all somewhere inside your brain, but are you able to get it out of there fast enough? Knowing something is only one half of the test, the other might be to be actually fast enough to write everything down. Are you used to write for 2 hours nonstop? In case you are, good for you, but for all the others, be prepared. Set yourself a time and answer some questions. Simulate the exam. Are there 20 people in the room or 100? In case there are 100, for example, you might get distracted by sounds, or from the location itself? Is there a construction side next by? Or other people talking all the time in the hall? Being prepared is never a bad thing, don’t you think?

Step 6: Make sure that you get some rest before the exam.

A lot of people think that they need to suck in the information last minute, going through the script again and again. Reading through their notes and trying to remember certain topics. This is the worst thing you can do! On the one side this is not really effective, but on the other side, you increase the appearance of panic, anxiety, or worries.

Be at the location some time ahead, make sure that you have everything you need, talk to your friends or people that are standing around. Or simply take some time for yourself. But please, don’t try to get something inside your head last minute.

And that is it. A short and superficial step by step guide. For sure, that is not really helping you to actually learn something, but you need to have a good basis, right?

See you next time!

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