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How not to worry too much about your exams

brunch Updated: Oct 11, 2018 20:17 IST
Zuni Chopra
Zuni Chopra
Hindustan Times
zuni chopra,vidhu vinod chopra,anupama chopra
One way to ace your exams is not studying any new material the night before(Parth Garg)

I’ve heard exams compared to many things: too cold coffee, poisonous mosquitos, a porcupine that you go to pet but it stabs you in the hand (oddly specific, that last one). We’ve all been through them, we’ve all panicked about them, and we’ve pretty much collectively decided that we all hate them. We think of them as an amorphous beast, threatening to swallow us whole at the slightest stumble.

Here’s the thing. I’m not going to say that we should not care about exams. All I’m saying is that we care a little too much. They’re not a sum total of your worth, contrary to what your aunts and uncles seem to think. And they’re certainly not worth your sleepless nights, your nervous tears, your heart attacks when results come out. They’re stepping-stones to your future, waiting to bridge the gap between you and the person you want to be. So do your best, but don’t let them get the best of you!

Here are some tips from your typical IB student (who is, she likes to think, doing pretty well) on turning your exams from a bucking, fearsome bull to a noble, loyal steed (metaphorically, of course; it’s still only paper)!

To prepare

First off, try not to study any new material the night before. All this will do is make you think you know nothing. You will then proceed to panic, forgetting what you know, meaning you really know nothing. I speak from experience.

Second, if the subject involves a lot of memorising, make flashcards to go over the day before. Going over an entire textbook can be a tad overwhelming.

Don’t ask your friends how much they’ve studied. Ever. Not only does everyone have different patterns of studying, but everyone also tends to lie about it, meaning that this situation will result in nothing more than a lot of students lying to each other and laughing while everyone is panicking internally.


During the exam

Do not get distracted. And know that there will be distractions. There’ll be a guy flipping his pen unceasingly or a girl coughing way too much or that one girl that keeps fiddling with her hair (that’s me by the way!). Try to keep your eyes on your paper and take it one question at a time.

If you’re on a time crunch, skip what you don’t know. Come back to it later. It’s better to secure the marks you can in the time that you have than to be left floundering for marks you might not actually get.

Drink water! A lot of people forget this, particularly as they’re so busy writing they forget to breathe, but it’s important to keep your stamina. Getting a headache after an hour and a half will not be helpful.

Tell yourself the exam ends five minutes before it actually does. This will give you some room to go over your work or wrap up your essay (if it’s an English or Psychology paper). This will also prevent panic attacks at the end of an exam. You might think it doesn’t matter when you tell yourself it’ll end; you’ll take the same amount of time anyway. However, I’ve found we tend to pace ourselves out differently based on how much time we think we have.

After the exam: Dealing with results

I always have a friend check my result for me. This gives you someone to lean on in a time of despair as well as someone to congratulate you in a moment of victory. If you don’t have a friend nearby (or they’re too busy getting their own results), go through the paper before you check the marks, just to mentally prepare yourself.

Don’t check to see how other people did before you’ve come to terms with your own marks.

When you’re really upset, it can be tempting to hide the paper in your desk and never look at it again. Even so, go through your

paper to make sure it’s been marked correctly. Examiners are correcting a lot of papers at a time, and can miscalculate. A few marks can make a world of difference!

Don’t forget to congratulate yourself on a job well done! Even if you already expected to do well, you still did well! Give yourself a moment to pat yourself on the back. Acknowledge your successes just as much as your failures; it is these successes that will give you the motivation to keep climbing!

All in all, no matter what the outcome, you should feel proud of yourself. Make sure you never have to look back and think, ‘I could have done more’. Push yourself to your limit, just for one month. If you’ve worked your absolute hardest, then I promise you that you will be happy with your results, no matter what they are. As T. S. Eliot once said, ‘For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our businesses.’

Remember, everything you do is for yourself. You will be a champ at these exams not because you have to, but because you want to. Envision your most ambitious goals throughout the exam process – university, dream job, bragging rights, whatever – and let this give you the drive that you need. So go out there and chase your future; your time starts now!

The author is a 17-year-old girl from Mumbai who has written the novels The House That Spoke and The Island Of The Day Before. She is a regular contributor to HT Brunch

From HT Brunch, October 7, 2018

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First Published: Oct 11, 2018 20:17 IST