That all-important examination is lurking at the next corner. It is time to seriously start preparing for it. But have you assessed your strengths and weaknesses? Have you left everything for the last moment? Are you Mr. Crammer or Miss Stressed? Are you downing too much caffeine and going sleepless? Are you preparing for an examination like an idiot?
1. Do not know your strengths and weaknesses?
If all of us could be absolutely honest about ourselves, we would enumerate our strengths and weaknesses and preparing for an examination would be such a breeze. Unfortunately, we are all like Mr A who is absolutely oblivious of his strengths and weaknesses. He knows not that he is good in mathematics and a duffer in English. So, he spends more hours poring over mathematical problems than over getting his grammar right. To prepare well for an examination, the basic trick is to assess honestly areas where we need to work harder and where to spend fewer hours.
2. Left everything for the last moment?
He never marked the examination date on his calendar. To him, the examination was always “far away” to begin studying for it now. While his friends were diligently cobbling together a foolproof study plan, he laughed it off as “too early, too soon”. He was the perennial Mr Last Moment. He left everything for the last moment, including preparing for the examination. And when the E-day lurked around the corner, he locked himself in the room, downed cups of coffee, stayed up all night, hurried through the syllabi. Not surprisingly, everything that he studied at the last moment got completely addled in his head. The result: He flunked.
3. Forgot to analyse your previous failures?
This is not the first time he was sitting for a competitive examination. He fared very badly in the previous attempt. Of the 300 multiple choice questions, he could barely mark 200 – he was too slow in marking answers and wasted too much time on difficult questions. Mathematics was his strength, English his weak point. Unfortunately, he learnt no lessons from the first attempt, he did not objectively analyze his previous failures. For the second attempt, he took no practice tests to improve examination time management; he did not spend more time on English. He failed the second time as well.
4. No plan of action:
Sure, examinations are no wars that require infallible strategies. But they do require a plan of action (POA) which could vary from one individual to another. Mr. A has a POA which works backwards, Miss B schedules her plan in fortnightly pies. Look at Mr. A. This is June, his examination is in November. He allocates October for revision, September for mathematics, August for English, July for general knowledge. In June, he would scurry around for resource material, notes and everything else that he would need for preparation. Miss B cannot handle one subject for 30 days, so she alternates her fortnights with mathematics, English and general knowledge. Without a POA, you might end up scrambling at the last moment. Not having an examination POA is a very bad idea. Get one.
5. Too nervous, too stressed?
Well, everyone gets nervous about an impending examination. You are not the only one. It is okay to stress a little, fret a little. But just a little. Not too much. Not like Mr. Stressed Out. He is not such a bad student, but examination phobia is his nemesis. He goes sleepless days before the examination, he loses his appetite, he sweats, frets so much about the examination that his preparation goes down the drain. Take it easy. It is an examination, not your day at the guillotine. Sleep well, eat well, have enough fluids, study well, calm your nerves, do not lock yourself in a room, go for a walk, listen to some music. The mantra: Take it easy. Nervousness and stress would not get you good grades. Not even brownie points.
6. Bitten by the cramming bug?
His name is Mr. A. However, if you watched him prepare for an examination, you would probably christen him Mr. Crammer. For he crams everything – he never looks at a question or problem logically, he learns by rote all that is printed in the examination guide/notes. He forgets that the final examination would not have exactly the same questions, the question could have a twist and the answer needs to be tweaked accordingly. But Mr. Crammer knows no other way of studying. His low grades say it all.
7. Did not take practice tests:
Mr. A is a diligent student. He studies hard, has a plan of action, and his friends are sure that he would come out with flying colours. Everything seems to be working in favour of Mr. A. Except one: He did not take practice tests. At home, he never did a dry run of the 3-hour, 250 question examination. He did not realise that in an examination knowing an answer is not enough, you need to finish it within the stipulated time. His friend Miss B was no better. She took practice tests but never sincerely; she would take long breaks, stretched 3 hours to 3.30 hours. She, in reality, was being dishonest to herself. Practice tests are an absolute must – make it an essential part of your examination preparation.
8. Did not get enough sleep:
The cardinal sin of examination preparation: Not enough sleep. Mr. A shelved everything for the last moment; he assumed he could stay up a few extra hours every night and complete the syllabi. But it did not happen that way. He ended up staying up all night the entire week before the examination. On the day of the examination, he was so jaded and groggy that he forgot all that he had learnt in the past week. Staying up all night and not getting enough sleep before the examination is the stupidest way of preparing for an examination. Get enough sleep. It always works.
9. Have no idea about learning methods:
Let’s get this right: We all learn things differently. Look at this number: 123456789. Mr. A breaks it into three components: 123 456 789. Miss B learns it at as: 12 34 45 67 89. For Mr. C, the numbers come easy in two parts: 1234 56789. Mr. D thinks of it as whole: 123456789. Get the point. We devise our own learning methods, methods that make learning easier, faster. Just before the examination do not adopt a new method for yourself, do not emulate your friend’s method. The brain gets used to a certain learning method; do not confuse it at the last moment.
10. There’s a word called Revise:
Revise. Revise. Revise. Mr. A forgot this must-mantra of an examination preparation. He picked up so much while preparing for the examination, but he paid no heed to revision. Is it any surprise that just before the examination he forgot a lot of things? Revision is necessary to refresh and recap all that you have learnt. Revision also gives you an idea about how much you have retained. Take revision seriously. Think of it as the concluding exercise of any examination preparation.
Preeti Verma Lal