Tortured by Exams? Escape the Chamber
What good have exams ever done for mankind? All they do is stress you out, mess up your social life, and give people complexes about whether smart is an apt word to use to describe them.
The only people who benefit from exams are invigilators – who get paid, lecturers – who also get paid AND take pleasure in your torture, and parents – who get to save money when they no longer have to buy you that PlayStation® or whatever it is they promised you, if you got top grades.
To all of you who have exams, I feel for you. Yes exams are a must to earn your qualifications, but that still doesn’t stop them from being a pain in the arse. I mean… why do they test us? They know we’re going to cram, people who are a bit book-challenged might study ‘hard’ and fail anyway, and ‘bright’ students who eh study one bit may well be the lucky ones to get good grades. Yes. Life is so not fair.
‘Bright’ people try to fool you into thinking that it’s all about attending every class, being a teacher’s pet, and quoting Shakespeare, formulae, and other ish. I don’t believe in the ‘bright’ argument for doing well in exams. I believe in being strategic. I was a wutless student in my UWI undergrad days (I turned a new leaf when I did my master’s degree).
Though a bit wutless, I was a strategic delinquent and learnt that doing well in exams wasn’t so much about knowing everything. It’s about knowing what to study, studying a specific range of topics, having a good handle on expressing yourself, making what little knowledge you have relevant to the question (even if they ask you about blue skies and you write about donkeys), managing your energy, and learning to bluff like there is no tomorrow.
Since exams are upon you, I thought I’d share the tricks and techniques I’ve learned along the way. For those of you who have already started exams, and feel it’s too late to save yourself, take heart; some of these tips are meant to help you at the last minute. See… sometimes you were a good student all semester long, and did everything you were supposed to do, and still they throw you for a curveball on exam day. These tips are therefore all about getting your body and mind into the right mode to be ingenious on exam day. It’s more about faking the confidence and believing you can handle whatever the examiner throws your way. So stop praying electricity goes or that a storm hits. If implemented properly, these tips should do the trick.
Get some sleep
First rule is get some sleep. Yes, you’ll pull all-nighters, but you’ve got to create a rhythm so that you’re alert for the exam. So maybe do an all-nighter every other night. If you’re in dire straits, go ahead and pull two all-nighters. However, on the third day… you must rest.
Yeah… you probably have tonnes of chapters to cram, but all that cramming will be of no use if you’re too tired to remember what little you studied, and you don’t want to be the person who fell asleep in your exam. Just ask anyone who’s fallen asleep in an exam.
Know the line about not being able to make love on a hungry belly? Well you can’t study on a hungry belly. Even if you convince yourself that you can… you will learn otherwise when you’ve read an entire chapter, only to realize that you can’t remember what the hell you were reading in the first place, because all you could think about was the pelau in the fridge.
You need something to pump you up and give you energy. About the food for energy… I’m not talking about dasheen and ting. Ask yourself, what gets you hyper and gives you wings? If you’re thinking about that blue, silver and red can, there’s a trick to that as well. Don’t drink a Red Bull when you’re already tired. Drink it just before you get tired. That way it carries you through, and you can fly like a kite. If you prefer other methods of sugar rush, you can try my dependable combo – a coke and a pack of skittles. Taste the rainbow.
A highlighter is the adult version of crayons, so it’s always fun to get your highlighting on when studying. Choosing a highlighter is very important. You can’t study everything. You can’t remember everything. So highlight what you want to remember. Choose a colour wisely. Hate pink? Well choose a yellow highlighter. Feeling depressed before you even start studying? Choose a blue highlighter. Point is… choose a colour that you love, so that your eyes and brains will be happy to receive the information you’re about to cram. Trust me. This has helped when I sat in a locker room or on the library floor a half hour before two or more exams. I did say I was wutless.
Be real with yourself. If you’re helpless in Maths… well ummmm you might be a hopeless case no matter how much you study. Know thyself. Note I’m not saying to accept failure. I’m just saying, be realistic. Ok. Maybe I am saying to accept defeat, because I really don’t know what to tell you to do except study anyway, buy an apple for your teacher every day, and hope for the best.
Exam season is the time to pretend to be James Bond or his cousin Harry. One time, I had a corporate law exam. The lecturer wanted us to know our stuff inside out. He used to say, “Don’t give me any Mother Lakshmi answers” (don’t beat me, beat him; he really said that). On the other hand, when you’ve either dozed off in class, daydreamed about that hot guy who lives on your street, or plain ol’ missed a few classes, specificity becomes elusive.
Thankfully, for me, I was sitting by KFC an hour before the exam, cramming with other students. Then someone mentioned a case the lecturer was going to base a question on. That was news to me. So I skedaddled to the computer lab, pulled up the case on the Internet, and crammed its contents. I’m happy to report that I was able to answer that question quite well, and that’s probably what helped me to pass.
Lesson here. Maco de scene.
Get a partner in crime
Having a partner in crime will also help. For another law class, I had a friend who I’ll just refer to as “Rising Sun”. He’d attend class one week; I’d attend the other, and so we’d go. Then at the end of the semester, we’d review the topics, I’d select what we’d study, we’d cram the night before, and walk into the exam cocky as a peacock, and miraculously get an ‘A’. That wasn’t because we were ‘bright’ though. It was because of the following point.
Have a bluff plan
Exams demand creativity, whether you’re prepared or not. Studied five books? Studied one chapter? Make that info work. Decide what you’re answering. Regardless of what they bring, this is the information you’re using. Now these kinds of shenanigans only work if you’re studying ‘soft’ areas like English or Sociology where you can write yourself into a pass or even an ‘A’ grade with good expression and ingenious analyses.
If it’s Maths, Microeconomics, Engineering, Physics or Stats, where ‘hard’ facts are required, ah cyah help yuh. Those subjects are the ones where I used to answer a few questions and rewrite some in answer form or try to make up for my incompetence by writing long letters to the examiners, explaining why they should have mercy on me. Trust me, I did that for CXC math.
Another Jedi trick is to have confidence the size of a camel’s nose. If you don’t believe in your bluffing skills… don’t bluff, because bluffing minus confidence equals a sure fail. While you’re at it, don’t buy a cheap pen either. The better your penmanship, the more likely your answers will look like the real deal, and well… lecturers like nice penmanship.
I’m going to try to be slightly socially responsible here and say that not everything that worked for me will work for you, but if you think it can… go ahead. If not? Study, study, study, because I can’t buy you a PlayStation® or pay for you to repeat exams. Oh, and if you try it and fail? Don’t blame me. You should have been studying instead of reading my article
Image courtesy iStockphoto.com.