Exams can feel like the most daunting prospect on earth. It can feel as if in a mere matter of minutes, you could make or break your whole term, year, or even academic life.
Exams should not be a daunting prospect at all though. They are just a set of questions designed to enable you to implement what you have been learning throughout the course. They are not there to trick you or designed to make you fail.
An examination hall is a unique place, in which your usual mental capacities are replaced by an almost superhuman ability to think, create and solve in a way you did not imagine possible. The pressure to do well from teachers, institutions, family and yourself should be embraced and harnessed as adrenaline to help fuel your performance. Take your nerves and convert them into focussed energy. Your mind will amaze you at its abilities.
Before you even enter the exam hall though, an effective revision schedule must be completed – ensure that you’re as best prepared as possible. The most important thing to remember is that everyone has their own style of revision and it is not about how much you do, but how effectively you do it. Likewise, everyone has a time of the day during which they are at their most efficient. This may be first thing in the morning or last thing at night. The key is to abolish guilt or self-pity: don’t begrudge yourself the odd lie-in if you make up for it with a good session in the evening; don’t feel sorry for yourself at the amount of work you have to do, everyone is in the same position and there is always enough time to get it done.
There is always enough time to get it done. This doesn’t quite seem possible when you find yourself underprepared a few days before the exam. Last-minute revision or ‘cramming’ can be an invaluable resource. Even if you have done months of ‘blanket revision’ (rereading notes, making annotations, jotting down points or formulae), this counts for nothing without learning it all and committing it to memory. In the days before your exam, you are also at your most efficient because your nerves are driving you to absorb as much information as possible in the remaining hours.
If you haven’t covered as much as you had planned during the revision process, this last-minute revision is even more important. Of course, it is important to be well rested and fed for an exam to enable your brain to operate at maximum speed. However, this only applies if you have a certain amount of information for your brain to access during the examination! If you haven’t been able to memorise enough of your notes yet, then every minute you spend revising in the days before could affect your grade dramatically. You will find information that you were previously unable to commit to memory will become clearer during this ‘cramming’ period because your mind will subconsciously enter a more efficient phase of learning as the examination date approaches.
Keep calm, revise efficiently and remember: there is always enough time to get it done!
Often, particularly in essay-based subjects, examiners want to see examples of independent thought whilst considering the consensus of critical opinion. The Cambridge Immerse summer programme provides participants with an unparalleled learning experience that through its tutorial style of teaching helps students to think for themselves, to develop vital skills such as problem-solving and essay writing, and ultimately to help fulfil their academic potential.