Lesson 26: Exam Day
They’ve finally arrived! Exams are here. Everything you’ve worked so hard for has ultimately led you to this point. In this lesson, I’ll share a few tips to help you bring your best self to the exam.
Take the entire day off! Don’t do anything study-related apart from the exam. Don’t study before the exam and don’t study after. If you study before, you will use up your energy. This is bad because I strongly believe you should save up as much energy as possible for the actual exam. I suggest you don’t even look at your notes or summaries on the day. Doing so will only serve to stress you out and drain your energy.
After the exam, you need to relax and unwind. Once it’s over, there’s nothing you can do about it. So, whether you did well, or messed up, don’t dwell on it. Forget it and take the time to celebrate the fact that one exam is over. Reward yourself by doing the things you enjoy. For example, I used to play video games after every exam. Also, now might be a good time to start skipping tuitions, if you can get away with it! There’s nothing worse than having to go to tuition after a tiring and stressful exam. If you’ve been consistent throughout the year, that one tuition session will neither make nor break your chances of becoming a Laureate. So, feel free to skip it if you want to!
Moreover, here is what you should NEVER do after an exam:
Don’t ever discuss your answers with other students!
The consequences of doing this can be extremely destructive to your mental health. How would you feel if the “smartest” person in class obtained a completely different answer to you? Exactly! You don’t want to find out! Use headphones and music to block out your friends’ conversations if you must. Regardless of how you performed, it would be best if you forget about the exam and start focusing on the next one.
Overthinking about the past can ruin your performance on a future paper.
You want to be in top shape, both physically and mentally. So, be sure to get at least 6-9 hours of sleep for at least seven consecutive days before each exam. Most of your friends will be pulling all-nighters during exam season. However, what they don’t realise is that
Sleep deprivation = Brainpower deprivation
You’ll need all the brainpower you can get to ace the exams successfully. So, do yourself a favour and don’t deprive yourself of sleep. You need to conserve all your energy for the exam.
Check that you have everything packed the night before. You don’t want to waste time and energy to pack your things in the morning, do you?
On the day, give yourself plenty of time to reach the exam centre. This will help avoid all the stress and panic associated with the risks of being late for the exam. So, leave home early!
If it’s a morning exam, make sure you have a healthy, complete breakfast. If it’s an afternoon one, make sure you eat both a good breakfast and a good lunch. You want to provide your mind and body with all the fuel it needs to gain full marks in the exam. Don’t forget to drink enough water. Bring a clear plastic bottle in the exam if you can. Sip from it from time to time to stay hydrated. However, don’t drink too much because you don’t want to waste time going to the toilet in the middle of the exam!
You are likely to experience negative emotions such as fear, stress, and anxiety on exam day. If you don’t manage them properly, they might cause all your hard work to go in vain. Here’s a classic example: you experience a mind blank during an exam due to stress. This happens when you suddenly forget something that you knew perfectly well before the exam. Another example is when you mess up easy questions/calculations. So,
You better exert strict control over your emotions, else they’ll control what you write on the exam paper!
All you need to do is actively replace negative emotions with positive ones. It’s much easier than you think. I suggest you revisit the topic on Mastering your Emotions for a more in-depth explanation on how to make your emotions work for you instead of against you.
Some students prefer to stay alone before an exam whereas others prefer to chat with a group of friends. Everyone is different, so find out what works best for you.
Often, as soon as the invigilator gives the signal, students rush to start the exam paper. Don’t do this. Instead, take 1-2 minutes to get a feel of the paper. Have a quick look at the questions before deciding which one to attempt first. This will give you an overview of the structure of the paper. I recommend you answer the easy questions first. This will provide you with some confidence and will give you some extra time to spend on harder problems later. Don’t dwell on a question for too long. If you are stuck on one, leave it and come back to it later.
You are on the clock, so you need to use your time correctly. The time you spend per question should be proportionate to the number of marks allocated to it. Don’t spend 10-15 minutes on questions worth only 1-2 marks. The number of minutes you should expect to spend per mark should roughly be equal to the total number of minutes available for the exam divided by the total number of marks. This includes the time you use to review/improve your answers at the end.
This is arguably the most important tip of all: READ THE QUESTIONS CAREFULLY! Yes, I am shouting! Too often, students rush to answer a question without first thinking about what it is actually asking for. You can end up writing an irrelevant answer (and get zero marks) if you don’t carefully scrutinise what the examiner is asking you to write. You should tailor your answer to the question that comes up in the exam instead of answering a similar question that you wish had come up. Underlining the critical parts of the problem is a useful technique to make sure you don’t accidentally misunderstand it. You don’t want to miss your chance of becoming a Laureate just because you misread a word or a sentence, right? So, once again,
Read the questions carefully!
Attempt all questions. You get nothing if you leave a question blank, but you might get a few marks if you write something.
In summary, those tips are here to help you optimise your performance on exam day. The only way you are going to perform at your best in the exam is by bringing your best self to the exam.
So, the Key Takeaway is:
Bring your best self to the exam!
Do you have any questions or comments? Post them below!