Exams....HELP!

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Exams....HELP!

Postby cols » Wed Mar 04, 2009 2:34 pm

Hi guys, Well I thought as there is a good many students on the forum maybe I could ask for a tip or too.
Here's my problem.. I study ALOT and don't have many problems with assignments and such, however my exams are not assignment based. I have a major problem with exams in that my brain tends to abandon me the minute I sit in the exam hall. What's really frustrating is I know the stuff practically inside out but I get all flustered and can't focus and when I come out I could answer the questions in my sleep .
In May I'm due to take 4 exams and I'm going crazy trying to figure out how to keep calm which of course is making me ten times worse

So after all that .. does anyone have tips on how to keep it together on exam day ..I've worked really hard and I'd be gutted if I just couldn't perform on the day
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Postby Tonyblack » Wed Mar 04, 2009 2:48 pm

Wish I could help. I haven't taken an exam in about 35 years. And I was crap at taking exams when I did. :?
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Postby Batty » Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:03 pm

Sorry, but I can't help.
I had / have the same problem. The minute I sit down under exam conditions my brain goes blank, and I only recall a fraction of what I know.

I've never found a solution. Unfortunately, employers do not recognise that 'Life experience' is a greater asset than exam results for subjects that you've forgotten about years ago!
Going to my school was an education in itself. Which is not to be confused with actually getting an education (Schultz)
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Postby Tiffany » Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:12 pm

I hope someone here has advice for you Cols, but like Tony, it is years since I did any exams & unfortunately like you my mind went a total blank when I did take them.
Sorry I help you. :(
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Postby Tonyblack » Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:17 pm

I remember doing my Geology O Level and we had to look at the crystalline structure of a mineral sample with a magnifying glass. For some reason my eyes crossed when I was doing it and wouldn't uncross. :shock:

I think it was nerves as that was really the only exam I cared about. The invigilator told me to close my eyes and relax for five minutes and that seemed to do the trick.
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Postby poohbcarrot » Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:18 pm

Mnemonics is the way.

For example, you're pretty sure there'll be a question in an economics exam about the differences between autocratic and democratic management styles. Borrow someone's essay who got a good mark for that particular topic. Assign one word for each of the points mentioned in the essay. Then take the first letter of each of the words and form a new silly sentence using that first letter. Remember the silly sentence and when you sit down in the exam write the first letters of the silly sentence down and assign them the original word.

Example

The words "Tertiary, production, isolation, service, fluctuation, ascending, business" give you 7 points to write about. Take the first letters TPISFAB and make a sentence - "Terry Pratchett is fab". Remember the sentence and you'll remember the 7 points to write about.

With essays, say what you are going to write about, write about it, then say what you wrote (always remember to put "In my opinion I believe....")

Intro There are two arguments
Argument 1
Argument 2
In my opinion argument 1 is the best because of (point you've already made)

Well that's how I passed!
Last edited by poohbcarrot on Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby WannabeAngua » Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:23 pm

Are they written or oral exams you're having?
I've never had any problems with written exams, but sometimes I could start to reason AGAINST my own line of arguments halfway through oral exams :oops: Really annoying.

Just have some general advice Cols, like try not to think about the exams for at least 24 hours before you're gonna have them. Go to the movies, read something besides your scientific literature, go for a long walk and talk about something else with a friend....
And get a good night sleep the night before, don't sit up studying half the night.

Aren't there an adviser you can talk to before your exams? Maybe he or she can help you out.

Lots of luck!!!
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Postby poohbcarrot » Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:28 pm

I don't agree with wannabe.

Don't start revising until the night before. If it's a morning exam stay awake all night making your silly mnemonics. If it's an afternoon exam get up early and revise all morning.

Remember, exams are fun!
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Postby Tonyblack » Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:31 pm

Fun? That way would scare the pants off me! :lol:
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Postby Dotsie » Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:32 pm

Hi Cols, you have my deepest sympathy! As a student myself I have taken many exams over the years, & I don't suffer from nerves as much as I used to.

My tips would be
1. Know your facts (Poohbcarrot's mnemonics method is a good one). This comes from much revision.
2. understand your subject - this is different from point number one, & comes from doing practise questions, a great many of them.
3. relax on the day! I can't really help you on this one I'm afraid, except that to say the better prepared I am for an exam, the less nervous I feel.

Apart from these, there are the obvious ones, such as read the question, only answer what they are asking you (re-write the important words such as "define", "describe", discuss" etc), and leave enough time to attempt all questions.

Good luck :D
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Postby poohbcarrot » Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:38 pm

Life is a game. You win or you lose. Exams are a game. You pass or you fail. So just enjoy them.

If something bad happens to you like a loved one is sick or dies, that's something to worry about. In the great scheme of things exams are pretty insignificant, so don't fret.
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Postby Dotsie » Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:40 pm

I'm not so sure about that. Working hard for three years just to lose out on a qualification would feel pretty devastating to me. And you can't compare it at all to the loss of a loved one, they are completely different things & it doesn't mean you're not allowed to try your best in an exam!
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Postby SandraB » Wed Mar 04, 2009 4:05 pm

I'd definately go with NOT cramming the night before - spend the evening/morning (for afternoon exams) relaxing - candle-lit bath, choccy's (not alcohol - it's effects on memory are conflicting) whatever works for you.

If you cannot stand to not look at your books lazily leaf through - your mind will pick up stuff, keep calm and relaxed and if anything catches your eye read it out of interest only (always found the histories in my microbiology book good for that). If you suddenly cannot remember how a relates to b look it up - then stop and relax again.

Generally you remember things if your mind is in the same state it was when you lernt something. Eg Uni students who always had lectures with hangovers always remembered the facts better hungover rather than drunk or sober. Stress will always derail your mind but the info is still there, relax and it'll come back to you.

If you can start some exercise (walk the dog between revision sessions) somehow that helps your brain settle down (and gives you something else to think about other than what you're picking up in a bag). Never run a session longer than 20 mins with at least 10 min break - or 10 mins + 5 min break.

Plan something fun for after the last exam - then it gives you a distraction if your mind locks onto the fear of the exam...

most of these work but not all of them for everyone - trial and error unfortunately!
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Postby WannabeAngua » Wed Mar 04, 2009 4:07 pm

I failed my parasitology exam due to too little sleep the night before, when I sat down to start my eyes just swam because I was so tired.
I wouldn't recommend you start revising the night before, but people learn in different ways I guess.
In my case, what I didn't know the last night I would have no way of learning, so I would remember it, the night before the exam...

I'm not a person that would ever find exams a game, sometimes I wish I were able to just shrug at them.
But when so much time and energy have gone into reading beforehand, and so many socially sacrifices have been made to pass them I've always really wanted to perform well.
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Wed Mar 04, 2009 4:40 pm

As a world class worrier and habitual insomniac if someone says 'have a good night's sleep' or even worse 'relax' then it's a self-fulfilling prophecy that it's exactly what I won't do...

... so what I do instead is - initiate a 2 phase plan -

Phase 1
1. analyse what you need to do for whatever you're worried about,
2. do just that and then
3. STOP and don't do any more revising or whatever's on your list.
4. Have a good filling dinner/supper that you like (if you're cooking for yourself pick one that's easy to make or better yet get a takeaway if that's possible).
Do this whether or not you think you'll chuck it up - it'll take your mind off the next day for a while still

Then you go into Phase 2
5. DO NOT GO TO THE PUB WITH FRIENDS or drink alcohol anywhere with or without company. Instead -
6. Do something gently physical that you enjoy - so a nice stroll to a place you like; walk the dog there if you have one; do yoga/pilates/tai chi or whatever; go for a swim if that's convenient; or, best of all have a nice long energetic cuddle with your favourite person if they're handy! :wink:
However... just do one of the above or whatever gets you away from brooding or watching the telly for about 20 mins or longer.
7. If it's not time to go to bed - don't. But try to do something that's not going to get you too excited. Read an unexciting book or watch TV/DVD whatever - again something that's not going to get you too stimulated or go online to chat to someone who's pleasant and good company.
8. Drink something warm and comforting that's not alcoholic or riddled with caffeine - absolutely no coffee not even if it's de-caff! :|
9. Go to bed (if you're not already there with your favourite person, who I hope will have made and brought back 8 to you there). Make sure the room's not too hot or cold (17 deg Celsius is deemed about right) and, if it comforts you, that the bed linen is clean...
10. Follow your usual bedtime routine (although 'cuddling energetically' shouldn't be attempted again unless you really, really want to... :wink: ): Read; talk; listen to something soothing; meditate - doesn't matter so long as it's routine and won't wake you up too much. Then settle down to sleep around your normal time but before midnight if you're a real night owl.

There's a phase 3 too...
If you really can't sleep then don't lie there worrying about it - get up and do something really boring that doesn't need too much thought - even things like ironing or light housework (not with a vacuum though!) - then go back to bed when you're feeling sleepy and try again. Best not to raid the fridge though...

Main thing is to go with the flow and try not to get too excited or experimental and to give your brain something to do aside from fret over and over about something that is going to happen anyway and that you have to get through. This works with other stuff as well as exams and although it doesn't always work, it will at least give you something alternative to do whilst you're worrying and divert your mind from it a little. And keep you from doing silly things like getting blind drunk or staying out too late with mates. :D
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