By Jillian Terry
Don’t fret about finals
The exam schedule one monotonous, alphabetized list that strikes fear in the hearts of students of all ages. A long listing that can tell you so much with so few words and numbers, whether you’ll be slaving over a final on the Friday night at the end of the exam period, or if you’ll have three exams in 27 hours, just shy of the deferral mark. For some, however, the release of the exam schedule each semester is only an omen of things to come, as the real stress often sets in just as you lift your pen to begin writing the fateful test.
Exam stress is a ubiquitous phenomenon on campuses everywhere in December and April of each year. The combination of last minute term projects followed by late night studying and pitchers of caffeinated beverages could certainly erode the sanity of even the most studious test-takers among us. And while we’ve all heard the sound advice of parents and teachers to study well in advance and get a good night’s sleep before the exam, the number of times you’ve read the material or hours that you slept the previous night may not help the sweaty palms and laboured breathing come test day.
With the many departmental final exam regulations and general degree requirements that students must adhere to, it’s virtually impossible to escape the wrath of finals altogether. But, minimizing stress while you’re taking the exam is key at that point, all the studying you have (or haven’t) done is only secondary to how you can manage your nerves in order to get what you know onto paper.
And even though I’m far from a seasoned veteran when it comes to being an exam participant, I can say with a high degree of certainty that the process itself gets easier with time. So first years, don’t fret those two weeks in December may be fairly painful this time around, but next semester you likely won’t be nearly as anxious. And plus, then you’ve got the summer to look forward to, a welcome thought after several months of snow and ice.
Whether or not you’ve been taking exams for what may seem like an eternity, however, a certain amount of stress while being examined will probably always enter into the equation. I’m sure many will agree that the feeling you get when opening an exam, just before finding out exactly what material your instructor expects you to know, rears its ugly head no matter how many times you’ve been through the procedure before. To combat against that and other feelings of concern on exam day, it’s useful to practice it’s like riding a bike, just not nearly as fun.
Getting a copy of a previous or mock exam from your professors can definitely help dull the pain of writing unseen tests. If you’ve got the time, attempting to complete the practice exam without the help of books or notes in the allotted time will acquaint you with not only how much you know, but also how much you can physically write in a two or three hour period. That way, you’re not left scribbling illegibly as the test invigilator is struggling to collect your paper from you.
On test day itself, don’t do anything that’s going to break your concentration while you’re trying to write the exam. Sticking to your usual routine and being comfortable will almost certainly make you more at ease, even with material you may not be certain about. If your exam is in a room different that your usual class, you may even find it helpful to check the room out in advance to scope out a good seat, and to see whether you’ll want to bring a sweater in with you.
Even at the eleventh hour, after the studying is done, you can help yourself get a better grade in final exams simply by being relaxed while writing them. Remember to breathe and think logically, keeping in mind that you’ve only got a certain amount of time to complete the questions. Also, don’t forget it’s only one set of exams, and you’ll likely have the pleasure of writing many more in semesters to come.