Exams are vital and are part of every student’s life on campus. An examination (exam) is a test. Many things may be examined, but the word is most often used for an assessment of a person. It measures a test-taker’s knowledge, skill, aptitude, ability or standing in a topic. It is a set of questions designed to measure these things.
In education an examination is a test to show the knowledge and ability of a student on topics that had been taught or it can be said to be a test to show how teachable a student is. A student who takes an examination is a candidate. The person who decides how well the student has performed is the examiner. An examination may be a written test, an oral test, an on-screen test or a practical test.
There is a saying that exams are not a true test of knowledge, which I totally agree with. Back then in school, Dora a friend of mine would always study her books with the utmost dedication applying different study techniques that she has always used for effective learning. She would even go as far as rehearsing and teaching us her friends what she has learnt during our study group sessions. Surprisingly though, a night to the exams you will see Dora fretting with nerves and filled with great pangs of fear and anxiety even when we try to calm her, she will still be very afraid of failing the exams the next day despite her preparations.
She will imagine that all she has read will be erased from her memory or that she has not adequately prepared, which is of course false. Throughout the night till the morning of the exams she won’t sleep a wink and from there she will go to the exam hall with puffy eyes and dark circles.
Also, she will be stressed, mentally exhausted and fatigued. During the exams you notice her staring blankly at her sheets or staring off into space for long moments. Once the exams are finished, she will cry, complain and be sad throughout that day saying she could barely remember her name and registration number in the hall.
This little story here describes what thousands of students all over the world put themselves through just because of their imagination and mindset. Your mind is a powerful tool which can either make or break you depending on your disposition.
Here, I will share with you the things you should think about a night before and in the morning of your exams for better performance.
1. Positive imagery/ thinking: Picturing successful performance has been found to increase confidence. Spending time imagining a positive experience will also help you as a student to manage nerves. Pictures are better than words. Picturing yourself doing well has been found to be more effective at enhancing mood and reducing anxiety than telling yourself you will do well. It is worth noting that there are some potential downsides to daydreaming about your future and success, but these relate to behavior and self-control strategies over a long period of time. Thinking positively for a few minutes the evening before an exam (and once you’ve put in the hard work) shouldn’t affect this, and it will help boost your mood.
2. Reminiscence on Your Previous Best – To reminiscence means to recollect a past event. Thinking about previous positive experiences will help improve confidence. Exam candidates should remind themselves of a successful exam to help them feel more confident about an upcoming one. As a student you should think about what helped you do well in a previous exam and how you can apply that now. This is a metacognition exercise that is also a good skill to develop throughout the year.
3. Think on how You Have Overcome Setbacks – Research into mental resilience of Olympic champions has shown how overcoming setbacks has helped them deal with future challenges. I encourage you as a student to think back to previous setbacks that you have had and what was successful in helping you overcome these setbacks. Personally, the night before an exam may get me all worked up in knots especially if it’s a course, I had to spend more time to study and learn but thinking back to previous setbacks I had and how I overcame them helps me settle and be more focused.
4. Don’t think of or engage in last minute reading: what you didn’t read weeks or days before an exam cannot suddenly enter and stick in your brain just few minutes before the exam. Most students do or are tempted to do this when they see others doing it. I have done it myself and I can tell you it doesn’t help at all. It messes up with what you have already learnt prior to the exam and makes you question yourself on how well you have prepared which is a bad feeling to enter the exam hall with.
5.Remind Yourself of Your Preparation – How well you have prepared for a task is an important source of confidence. Controllable source of confidence, such as preparation, will lead to more enduring confidence levels. You should remind yourself of the preparation work you have put in and it will not only increase feelings of confidence and control in the build-up to the exam but also prevent you engaging in last minute reading on the morning of the exam.
6. Focus on Yourself and Don’t Compare to Others – When students compare themselves to others, their confidence is dependent on those around them, and is not within their control. This is stressful and increases anxiety and the fear of failure. Alternatively, focusing on yourself and what you can control will increase confidence. Don’t think about the way others go about their preparations. You know what works for you best, so use it and Ace your exams.
7 Exams are surmountable Challenges, not a Threat – If something is perceived as a threat, it is more likely to cause stress. Athletes who reframe an event as a challenge, as opposed to a threat, increase their performance. Instead of thinking about the potential negative consequence of a failed exam, you should reframe the exam as an opportunity to succeed. The increase in stress caused by focusing on ‘what if it goes wrong’ will also hinder your sleep quality the night before an exam as illustrated in the story above.
8. Get a Good Night’s Sleep: Sleep duration and quality have a significant impact on a number of factors associated with exam performance. After putting a lot of mental power into studying, energy has been expended and your brain surely needs a break especially a night to your exams. Getting a good night’s sleep will help you by improving your memory and concentration. If you can’t sleep before an exam it can have a negative impact on mood, with more focus being placed on negative thoughts.
Exams prove to your lecturers and teachers that you understood what has been taught in the classroom. Failing after putting in lots of hard work to study in no way proves that you are a dullard or a failure. Lots of things happen prior to an exam. Failure shouldn’t constitute suicidal thoughts, feelings of inadequacy and inferiority complex. That’s why there is another chance given to try again. Use your mind as a powerful tool that it is to pass your exams in flying colors. Best of luck!