The university year is moving inexorably towards the exam season and most of us feel some degree of nerves when we face exams. It’s normal and often a mild rush of adrenaline before the exam starts can enhance performance and just speed up that writing hand a bit. But, it’s important not to let normal nerves become panic. Here are some tips on what you can do to maximise your chances of keeping calm and performing as well as you possibly can.
Have confidence in yourself
You should have a pretty good idea of how you revise to best effect, after all you’ve been doing exams for a number of years already! I like lists, others like mind maps or other visual prompts, do what’s right for you. Of course you might want to try a technique one of your friends finds helpful but don’t get into competitions with others as to who can put in the most hours. Revision is not a competitive sport!
Look after yourself
This is important, make sure that you take adequate breaks, eat and sleep well and take some exercise. Sometimes going for a walk or a run gives your brain time to assimilate and sort out all the information you have been trying to cram in. Be kind to yourself, factor in some treats, plan some downtime doing something you really enjoy, allow yourself to eat that lovely bar of chocolate!
Look at past papers
It is always a good idea to look at the sort of questions which have been asked in the past. Don’t try to question spot though, just because a particular concept has been tested for the last three years doesn’t mean it is bound to come up again! Use the papers to understand the way in which questions have been asked and perhaps test your knowledge by planning skeleton answers, this should increase your confidence.
If possible it would also be worth tracking down generic feedback given on previous examination answers. It will help you further to understand what the examiners are looking for.
Reflect on your previous exam performance
If you’re in your second, third, (or fourth) year at university you’ve already enjoyed/endured some exams. Try to learn from any mistakes you made and avoid falling into the same traps.
If the timing went awry and you didn’t finish then be rigid with yourself. Divide the time by the number of exam questions and allow each question exactly its allotted time and no more. (You can always go back at the end if you find you’ve managed to squeeze an extra couple of minutes out).
Did you lose marks for failing to answer the question you were asked? It’s a really common mistake. Keep going back to the question as you write your answer and keep asking yourself if your answer is entirely relevant.
Were your answers last year insufficiently detailed? Make sure that learn details so that your exam answers are not just broad outlines. You are probably being asked to show more than a general understanding.
Use the help available
Generally academic tutors in the Law School at Warwick (and no doubt in other departments and universities) will be happy to see you during “Advice and Feedback” hours and this might be a time to chat through any topics you are finding difficult to understand or to check that your approach to past papers is along the right lines.
There will be revision lectures and academic workshops. Try to come along! View them as opportunities to help with your revision and not as activities taking time away from your personal revision marathon. You’ll find you’ll learn from other students’ comments and insights as well as from academics.
There are wellbeing and counseling workshops on stress management for which you can sign up. If you are feeling out of your depth then go along to them. Attendees rate them really highly and it might make all the difference for you.
Look out for the Study Happy campaign at Warwick too. Maybe the chance to get a free banana or stroke a dog will just help you get through a tough day.
Term 3 is a great time to get a careers appointment! I‘m sure some students just come to see me for a break from revision. That’s fine, I’d get lonely if nobody came and (don’t tell anyone else) I try to have some biscuits in as well! We can, of course, talk about careers too.
I’m told that if you feel nervous about something it can help to tell yourself that it’s not nerves but excitement you’re feeling. Perhaps you could be excited to show all those academics just how well you’ve absorbed their teaching this year?