I’ve been through every possible meltdown there is when it comes to exams. I’ve also been through everything from primary school tests and matric exams to university finals. And while I still occasionally hear “put down your pens” ringing in my ears and I can still see the long hand of the clock making its way towards the 12, I am still here, alive and well, and only partially traumatised.
I empathise with you, matrics, uni students and everyone who is anyone locked up in a room right now or metaphorically shackled to a desk. I am, or rather, I was you. And I know exactly what you’re going through.
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Studying and building your way up to that final exam usually goes a little something like this:
Stage 1: The hopeful and ambitious
You begin your month-long journey by marking your calendars, lining up your sticky notes and highlighters and organising your notes in the order they should be studied. You’re ambitious, you’re feeling positive, you’re full of hope.
You have a plan and all you have to do is put it into motion.
If only it was that easy.
Stage 2: The art of procrastination
Some may find that they skip stage 1 completely and begin their journey at procrastination station, which seems like a good idea at the time because you’ve got all the time in the world.
So you spend hours streaming movies, watching cat videos on YouTube and start convincing yourself that, because you’ve got time, there are things that probably could use your immediate attention and may even be somewhat more urgent, like updating your social media accounts and decorating your notes.
Or counting the bricks that make up your bedroom wall and coming up with an invention that might change the world.
Stage 3: The realistic and practical
But before you know it it’s one week before finals and you haven’t quite hit target with all the work you had initially planned on doing by then. So you start setting realistic goals and mapping out the next week. And here’s where that primary school math really starts helping:
You tell yourself, if I have 7x24 hours, that gives me 168 hours to study a 500 page textbook. Subtract 8x7 hours for sleep. That’s 168-56=112 hours. So 500÷112 hours=4.46 pages per hour. Which is totally doable if I don’t take any breaks, shower or eat.
I have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyoncé. I could totally do it!
Stage 4: The storm
But the night before the exam when all your friends are frantically sending you “How far are you?” texts and asking if you’ve already studied Chapter 12, the panic starts to set in.
Now, first of all, well, you didn’t know there was a Chapter 12. And you can’t answer a single question in your WhatsApp study group.
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So instead, you start accepting your defeat.
And realise that much like TV’s most beloved character:
Stage 5: The destruction
The day arrives and you start hyping yourself up.
But when you turn that question paper over, it looks less like what you studied and a lot like your worst nightmare.
As you push on, the phrases start ringing bells and you start remembering that concept that you finally wrapped your head around at 11pm.
“Om te beklemtoon,” you remember.
Of course, it’s always “om te beklemtoon.”
And before you know it, time's up.
Stage 6: The reconstruction
After gathering outside the exam venue with all your friends to discuss the paper (which is always a bad idea, just by the way), you leave feeling overwhelmed, but slightly proud of yourself for making it through and knowing most of the work. Because you did actually study your butt off.
So you eat, shower, and feeling hopeful and rather ambitious, you get comfortable, get your highlighters out and start again.
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What have you found works for you when dealing with stress during exams? Tell us by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org and we may publish your comments.
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