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Exams

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

We all love them, don't we? I personally do. My preferred form of assessment is exams. I know many people who fall to pieces in exams and forget everything they've studied, but I'm not one of them. I thrive in exams. The atmosphere gets me in the right mindset and I produce my best work. That is why I never trust the results I get from assessments and classroom exams. They aren't an accurate representation of my knowledge as I cannot do my best under those conditions. 

So, if you don't love exams (or even if you do), how can you make them your thing? I'm not an expert, but I have spoken to a lot of my friends who struggle in exams about this.

My first piece of advice is to just relax. You're probably thinking "easier said than done," right? Yes, very true. However, the more stressed and worried you get, the less you recall things. Keep your mind clear of worries and it will be so much easier to recall information. I personally listen to music right before exams as it gets me into the zone and allows me to stop any negative thoughts. I know some schools can be picky about this. If so tell them it is how you work best and if they still don't allow it, ask a parent to let your form tutor know and they should deal with it. 

Another thing, eat. It seems so basic and that it won't actually help, but I promise it will. You are going to need the energy. Eat some sweets before the exam to give you an extra sugar boost or drink a coffee/energy drink. Better still, take them into the exam. Under the national exam rules, there is no objection to any food being taken into the exam hall as long as it is in a clear bag — same as drinks (clear bottles, no labels).

Leading on from that, drink. Make sure you are hydrated before the exam and always take a drink in with you. I can't count the times that I have lost focus due to needing a drink. I carry a 2-litre bottle of water everywhere with me. You can't go wrong with it. Just remember to take labels off and for it to be a clear bottle. You don't want to break exam rules for the potential to cheat, although you really didn't.

Check the time during the exams. I always speed through exams because I hate not finishing on time, and then I end up sitting in silence for anything between an hour and twenty minutes in the exam hall because I finished too early. You may be the opposite and keep answering questions right up to the deadline, or not finish exams. If this is you, check the time. There's nothing worse than running out of time and, when you get the exam back, realising you knew the answers to the questions you didn't manage to get to. Ensure you answer all the questions by checking the time and moving on from questions you really don't understand. No matter how much you look at it, if you don't know, you don't know. 

One last thing: Don't over-revise. Sure, revise so you know all the info and are sure to pass it, but don't spend hours doing the same topic. This will add to your stress, making you panic more in exams, causing you to typically do worse. Revise as much as you need to and no more. The best advice I received from my mentor at GCSE level was to only revise a maximum of one and a half hours at home on top of a six hour school day and an hour intervention. I retained so much more information than I did when I studied three to four hours a night on top of my seven in school.

Good luck in any exams you have in the future. You can do it!