Beat exam nerves

By admin
29 May 2013

Most of us know that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling when exams are around the corner. Fortunately there are ways to deal with the anxiety. Here are a few useful tips.

Before the exam

Watch out for these pitfalls

1.      I don’t know where to start studying

Write down what the teacher tells you to study for the exams. Pay attention in class and catch up if you fall behind. Make a list of everything you have to learn for a specific subject. Divide the work into manageable chunks and start revising early; if you come across something you don’t understand you’ll have enough time to ask the teacher or a friend to help you.

2.      I have so much to learn and so little time

Gather the books you need for the subject you’re studying. Make sure your notes are complete and ordered. Check which are the most important chapters you have to study and identify any work you don’t understand. This saves  time and helps you focus on the main areas. Make sure you know what to study for the exam so you don’t waste time on work the exam won’t deal with.

3.      I don’t like this subject – it’s boring

You should study it no matter how boring it may be. Perhaps you’ll discover it’s not as bad as you thought. Use a colour pen or highlighter to underline the main points. Keep asking yourself what’s important and what you should remember about this section. Imagine you’re the teacher who has to decide how to set the questions on this section. If you can’t answer a question, read through the text again. Read actively (think about what you’re reading and make sure you understand it); if you read passively you could miss important concepts.

Use the PQRRR method to remember what you learn

Preview - Go through the work and look at the main points. How many are there?

Questions - Set questions on the work. What is it about?

Ruminate - Think about what you’ve learnt. Do you understand this section/theory?

Repeat - Learn and repeat the theories out loud.

Revise - Go over the work again before tackling the next section.

4.      I read everything over and over and still can’t remember it

Make use of memory aids. One way to remember a succession of names is to take the first letter of each and make a sentence with it. For example, if you have to remember the names of the planets in the solar system in the right order, make a sentence such as:

My (Mercury) Very (Venus) Eager (Earth) Mate (Mars) Just (Jupiter) Showed (Saturn) Up (Uranus) Now (Neptune).

5.      I’m pretty sure I know it

Don’t just accept you know the work – test yourself. Repeat the work aloud. If you’re unsure, consult your notes and repeat again from the beginning until you’re fluent.

6.      I easily forget what I’ve learnt

Revision is important. The more you revise the work the better you’ll remember it. Don’t learn new content the day before you write as you’re likely to become confused or forget the work quickly. Work according to a revision roster.

7.      I learn well on my bed with my favourite music in the background

Your bed is for sleeping. And listening to music distracts your attention. Very soon you’ll be singing along and the history or biology you’re studying will be forgotten. Concentrate on your work and listen to music when you’re relaxing.

Good time management

  • Spend more time on the subjects you’re not so good at.
  • Determine how many pages you have to study for each subject. Divide your preparation time accordingly.
  • Start revising in good time.

What should I do just before I write?

  • Don’t expect too much of yourself. Set realistic goals.
  • Believe in yourself.
  • Get your stationery together. Pack everything you need for the exam the night before.
  • Arrive at the exam venue on time.
  • Make sure you know when you’ll be writing each subject.
  • Don’t discuss the work with other learners just before the exam – it will only make you nervous or upset you.
  • Don’t leave out parts of the work – learn everything you must know.
  • Don’t take pills to stay awake.
  • If you know you’ve studied diligently you won’t stress as easily or become panicky.

During the exam

  • As soon as you’re given your exam paper fill in all your details as required.
  • Read the instructions carefully.
  • Determine how much time you have for each question.
  • Read each question at least twice and make sure you know exactly what’s being asked.
  • Keep an eye on the time.
  • Underline the key words in each question.
  • Don’t become anxious if you can’t answer a question. Leave room for it and answer the next one. But  make sure you number your answers correctly.
  • Write legibly.
  • When you’ve completed a question, read it again and check your answer. Is there anything you’d like to add?
  • If you’re short of time, list the main points in summary rather than answering just one question properly. You could lose a lot of points if you answer only one.
  • Focus on what’s being asked and what you’re writing. Don’t fidget and look around.

What do I do if I can’t remember the work?

  • Stay calm.
  • Continue and see which other questions you can answer. Usually you’ll remember the other work if you’re not consciously thinking about it.

-Rikus van Rooy and Jeanne Biesenbach

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