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Beat the Exam Blues!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

By Piya Mukherjeee, Director – VESLARC (Vivekanand Education Society’s Leadership Academy and Research Centre)

Summer time brings certain welcome gifts – mangoes and vacations – but also an annual and dreaded visitor – exams! Are there ways by which exams can become easier to deal with? Read on to learn more…

In the days leading up to the exam:
Revisions – human memory works best when there is “layering”, meaning repetition of learning, over time. So, instead of studying a certain topic in one go, try to divide the study into smaller segments that you cover over a few days.

Mind-maps and mnemonics – use mind-maps to understand and remember complex topics or data-filled topics. Both these tools are extremely useful in helping retention before exams.

Return on time invested – when you sit to study, first determine what you will complete in a given span of time. For example, can you finish studying a chapter in the next 2 hours? Do not simply begin reading the text book or your notes – be clear about the learning outcome and link it to a time segment. Mathematics and numerical subjects are best practiced on paper. For theoretical subjects, keep a notebook and pen handy to jot down key learnings, names, dates etc, as you read quickly.

Time management – remember – every human receives the same 24 hours in a day. Be consciously wise about how you carve up the 1,440 minutes to study, sleep, refresh your mind and take care of chores. Remember to take short breaks between intense periods of study.

Mood management – life can often through up unexpected and unpleasant situations. An argument with a friend, a disappointment at home – these can snowball into loss of motivation. Remind yourself of your bigger goals to stay on track.

Health – nourish your body and brain with nutritious food, including plenty of proteins, fresh fruits, and enough water. Don’t skip on sleep, as deep sleep allows the crucial consolidation of knowledge gathered through the day. Exercise, pranayam and simple asanas are a great help in releasing mood-altering endorphins, ensuring sound sleep and giving ample oxygen to the brain.

Technology – gadgets are good slaves but poor masters. Do not let them rule over you. Limit the usage of the mobile phone and the personal computer during study segments. Current research on cognitive neuro-science shows how the brain gets distracted due to notifications and messages through apps on the mobile phone. Be smart – keep one time slot in the day for watching the funny cat video sent to you by your friend. Focus without distractions at other times.

Visualization and affirmation – picturise yourself writing your exams and facing your viva exams with confidence and ease. Visualize success to rope in your subconscious mind. Similarly, affirmations, or positive phrases such as “I’ve worked hard – all will be fine” are of great help to reinforce your self-belief towards success.

Seek help with doubts, state of mind – don’t be afraid to seek help from teachers, parents or seniors, in case you find yourself stuck with a certain subject or topic, or, if your state of mind is consistently anxious or melancholy. Understand that such feelings are normal and temporary. At the same time, seek help, by venting and sharing your concerns.

At the exam hall:
Before the exam - avoid revising till the last minute or discussing likely questions with classmates. Focus on breathing deep and keep visualizing yourself completing the exam well.

Read, review, write, check – read the questions thoroughly and review your choices and order of attempting them. Time yourself to ensure you are able to attempt all questions. Use diagrams, charts and other such tools to illustrate your answers. Keep a few minutes for the end, to check the paper.

Post-exam commitment to self:
Review your performance and compare it to your potential. You know best what you can achieve. Identify areas where you might have done better, list out specific strategies for the same and you can now look forward to a well-deserved break before returning to a fresh academic year!

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