Strategies to ace your finals
Final exams are at the doorstep and I can picture all of you preparing these days. Pouring over books, revising, memorising where you need to. Those of you for whom it is the dreaded B (board) exam, the preparations must be even more intense.
And the stress must be skyrocketing. The level of stress a student faces before any major exam is tremendous. It is because of this stress that the normal, rational, thinking mind sometimes flies out the window, leaving one trembling and at a loss. Sometimes, even though you have prepared really well for the exam, when you see the question paper you are filled with tremendous anxiety. You may try to attack the paper without losing a minute, without even reading all the instructions.
Once, a teacher gave his students a surprise quiz in class. The task was to answer 100 questions in 15 minutes. The whole class desperately raced the clock, answering as many questions as they possible could. Only a couple of students sat back quietly, without attempting any answers. When the time was up, the teacher announced that all the students had failed except for the two who did not answer the question paper. After the hue and cry had died down, it was revealed that the first line of the question paper requested the students not to answer any question.
While nothing as dramatic as this will happen during your exam, how many of us have answered all the questions in a paper when the instructions were to answer any four? What is even more common is forgetting to write down an important point in an answer. Then there is always a chance of missing a sub-question or numbering an answer wrongly.
The reason for some of these situations is that the exams not only test your competence in a subject but also the speed with which you can demonstrate your competence. If we remember our rules of planning and goal setting, we can come out of the examination hall satisfied.
Step 1: When you receive the answer sheet, write down your name and roll number. Double check your roll number to ensure it is correct.
Step 2: Once you receive the question paper, close your eyes for a few moments, force yourself to be calm, remind yourself that you have worked hard and are prepared.
Step 3: Read the complete question paper, including all the directions as well as the questions. If you know any question really well, put a dot next to it. If there is any choice to make, take a tentative decision now.
Step 4: Depending on the marks allotted for a question, divide your time. Spend more time on answering a question that carries more marks. Also, plan to leave a little time for a quick revision at the end.
Step 5: Begin answering the paper. Unless otherwise stated, first answer the questions you know really well. Write the main aspects of your answer in point form at the beginning. And then begin expanding each point. This way you can be sure that you will have the full attention of the examiner. Plus, you won’t forget to put down any of the points.
Write all your answers in a neat handwriting, with clear margins. Underline the main points or the key words. If at any point during the exam you feel you are losing your concentration, close your eyes for a minute and remind yourself of the hours you spent preparing. Tell yourself that you can do it.
If you address the question paper in a calm mode, if you can plan your time and your answers, then you will be able to give your very best.
Tips to cope
Positive thinking: Sometimes we convince ourselves that we cannot do it or we do not know how to do it or we do not deserve to succeed. The power of positive thinking should never be underestimated. If you think you can, you will definitely be able to succeed. Whenever you go to your quiet corner to focus, reprogramme yourself to believe that you are capable of succeeding. Make this your signature tune.
Self-restraint: The most effective way of learning concentration is self-restrained discipline. Allot time for various activities in the day and then follow the time table rigorously. To begin with you will find it difficult to follow your schedule but later the fruits of accomplishing goals will start coming your way. Once you know that you will have time for your favourite activity, it will be a lot easier to concentrate on things more difficult.
Goal setting: If you are frightened by the magnitude of the task ahead of you (such as a huge syllabus), break the task into several small ones (tackle it chapter by chapter). If your resolve is not strong enough, put a physical mark somewhere to remind yourself of it. When I was in school, I had dried a flower and made a small poster for myself which said, What you are is a gift of God What you become is your gift to God. This poster somehow always motivated me to work hard.
Empty-chair technique: If you find your simple attempts at focussing and concentrating unsuccessful, it is time to begin the process of self-awareness. Sit in a relaxed pose with your eyes closed in a quiet corner and begin a dialogue with yourself.
Imagine you are sitting in the opposite chair. Ask yourself some simple questions relating to the problem. Questions such as why you are unable to complete the task. Is it because you don’t find it interesting at all or you are scared you can’t do better than your friends or the pressure to perform is too high? Conduct this dialogue in the language closest to your heart (I use Hindi) and see what happens.
When I do this empty-chair technique, I find my muscles getting tense when I voice the problem that is closest to my heart. Depending on the answers you emerge with during this emty-chair technique session, you could deal with the problem.
The writer has degrees in career counselling and child psychology. She has been counselling about opportunities in India and abroad since 1991