How everyone dreads this time of the year, and how the pressure drives students to do unrealistic things to get better grades. Most of us have gone through this ordeal , not once but multiple times in a single year !
Apart from the things you learn by studying the material in the books, how else do exams aid you ? What skills does this harness in you that you didn’t really pay much attention to ?
10 things I learned while preparing for exams –
1. Being Resourceful –
I’m not speaking for the people at Harvard, or any Ivy league university, but if you’re like me; who procrastinates studying just until the last moment, then you learn to prioritize the study material and study what is necessary. We even look back at the previous years’ questions asked, notice the pattern / trend, and predict what questions might be asked this time. We’re right most of the time !
2. Time Management –
My schedule during exams started at 6 am, ran through the day till 10 pm. In between, I scheduled lots and lots of breaks and naps to ease my mind; so I could refresh myself and then concentrate better on the study material. This skill had been imparted in me only because of the fact that I had to study for exams.
Depending on our course-work, my entire schedule was planned a couple of days earlier because I feared the lack of enough time. Funnily enough, I had ample time for each course in the time period between each exam, which was the result of the schedule I’d planned.
3. Creativity –
I’m sure most of you have had that “holy shit!” idea while studying for an exam which is only two days away. You can’t get your mind off it, but you can’t afford to lose study time thinking about the idea.
Here’s what I did to deal with the creative surge AND to keep up with your study schedule – Allocate around 30 minutes to think about your idea. It could be anything. I’ve had ideas for novels, for startups, and music. Brainstorm with yourself about this idea for 30 minutes to figure out whether it is feasible or not. After that, you’ll be less excited about it, or your fear for the exam will take over and make you study 30 minutes extra.
In fact, I had the idea to write this article during an exam, and I’m writing this on the day before an exam ! ( just for half an hour )
When you try to distract yourself from the idea, you end up thinking about it more and more. For the ones that don’t have any ideas, you’re both lucky and unlucky !
4. Optimal Planning –
If you’re an academic person and you love studying ahead in time, then you’ve nothing to worry about. There is no optimal planning required. For the ones that procrastinate, optimal planning strategies are a life saver.
Imagine you have 2 days to study for an exam, and the maximum marks is 100. You have all the study material with you; you also have the questions which were frequently asked in the previous exams. Now you know which topics are to be prioritized. Even if you can’t prepare for 100 marks, you will create strategies to study as much as you can, and as fast as possible.
If you replaced studying with some industrial work in the previous paragraph, it effectively becomes a business model for that industry !
5. Handling Pressure –
An exam may last for 2 weeks, or maybe 3. Some students might be relaxed about it, but some face a lot of pressure and start to panic.
Handling pressure isn’t an innate skill; it comes with practice. You don’t learn to handle the pressure; you just get used to it. You might learn ways to reduce that pressure, such as taking naps, or going out for a jog; but you can’t get rid of it.
Being anxious about serious events is normal for everyone out there; but to deal with it effectively requires repeated exposure to such ordeals.
6. The Value of Time –
Most of the days, I used to disregard time and treat it as an abundant resource. This “abundant” resource was severely cut short and I noticed it slip out of my hands during exams. I had to make use of every minute preparing for exams, and there was simply no time to even think about time as abundant in any sense.
If your study plan is rigorous, then you will appreciate time as an important resource. This must be the case in general, rather than realizing it multiple times foolishly.
7. Creating Innovative Strategies –
There were a couple of topics in a couple of courses that required mugging stuff up. This isn’t something I’m good at; so I devised a method to learn the topics as an entire Game of Thrones story, using keywords as mnemonics. As long as I remembered the story I made up, I remembered the topics. It goes against the whole point of having exams in the first place, but I’d have failed that course if I didn’t do that !
Similarly, there are multiple strategies that you can come up with if you’re desperate to get through a course, and that is a benefit to you when you apply that mentality to solve real world problems.
8. Perseverance –
Long story short – If I didn’t sit through hours of studying according to all my strategies and plans, I would simply fail that course. Fortunately, I did find the will to sit through that ordeal(s). If you aren’t used to perseverance, then you will discover that aspect in yourself during this time of the year. Once you do realize you possess that trait, you can do wonders with it. Perseverance is the key to everything you want to achieve.
9. The Value of Knowledge –
When you study through the course material, you come across a lot of areas in that material that you didn’t know and you might find a lot of those aspects interesting. I studied a course called Computer networks and I found that really intriguing as I studied through the course. The problem was that I realized this a couple of days before my computer networks exam, so I didn’t have enough time to dig deeper.
When I did find free time, I dug deeper and I discovered a lot of material online about this subject which was beyond the study material in college; and so I did embark on learning more about this, which went as far as learning about Artificial Intelligence ! Nothing is as it seems.
10. Learning to Adapt –
All these points that I’ve mentioned above will be activated by you consciously or subconsciously. Regardless of that, you will adapt to do whatever it takes to get through an event involving pressure. We explicitly acquire the ability to optimize the outcome in a limited amount of time.
Whenever there’s a deadline involved, we tend to think of innovative ways to get the job done. This doesn’t apply only to exams, but also in various real world aspects. After all, the inherent ability to adapt has been the driving force of evolution.