By Eddy Montilla.
During my academic years, I remembered that my best moments were when I had to take an exam, something that usually puzzled my classmates because while they were in stony silence and there was mounting anxiety for the test, I was… smiling! And since this idea can be easily open to misinterpretation, let me tell you that I was happy not because I was intelligent (I was not and I am not), well prepared for the exam or because vacations were about to start, but because my classmates and I lived in different realities. The only problem they had was to pass the test, but in my case, I was plagued with problems at that time and to take an exam was the smallest of them, so I had a good reason to be very happy. I had in front of me a problem with two possibilities only: I approved or failed the exam. That’s all. Since you probably share the same reality as my classmates did (fortunately, not mine!), let me give you some specific steps that will help you to pass your exam.
Before your exam
Step 1: Don’t take notes directly on your school notebook or computer
Inside your classroom, there are a lot factors that lead to distraction or mistakes: Time is limited, the beautiful girl at your side, etc. If you take notes directly on your notebook about what is written on the blackboard or your teacher says, you might take mistakes with you too, mistakes that you will probably not check later and will consider them exact data. Besides, by transcribing your notes later at home, you will be reviewing your lessons day by day without even realizing it. This idea is excellent, especially if you find it hard to study every day. As for computers, students rely on them more than ever. However, to take notes directly on your computer might not be a good idea because it might interfere with your ability to remember information. You are just typing and don’t have time to think, but when you take notes by hand, your limitations to write at the same speed as your teacher speaks force you to listen carefully and take the most important ideas. During this process, you are learning.
Step 2: Increase your energy levels
To do well in your exam will require all your powers of concentration and sustained mental effort, and that means energy consumption. Have a good breakfast and, if possible, a piece of chocolate or something before your test “for fuel”. For those who usually have butterflies in their stomach when they take a test, a cup of green tea or coffee is acceptable (only for university students).
Step 3: Do not study minutes prior to your exam
Except for something really important, like a piece of information that you forgot and could have strong and negative impact on your grades, keep your hand away from your notebook. What you could not learn in six months will not be memorized in two minutes. If you browse through your book to make sure that you “remember everything”, you will be confused because your mind cannot give you an answer as quickly as you browse through your notebook and that would only serve to make you feel nervous. Try to laugh, read o remember a funny story, so that you can be in better position to receive the test.
Step 4: Read your exam first
It is not a waste of time, as many people say. By reading the test first, you will know exactly where to begin, how to allocate your time and you will know well where to tread too. Those who say: “I start from the first question and if I cannot answer it, I go to the next one” usually end up losing time and getting anxious because they don’t remember what questions they answered, what questions are left and how to use their time properly.
Step 5: Plan how to answer your questions
Start from the easiest topics first. Then look at your watch and divide the minutes that are left into the questions you are not answered yet. If you have a multiple choice test, remember that one question has not connection with the topic. Another answer can be ruled out without much effort. Then, you only have to deal with two possible answers, that is, you have 50 per cent already! If you have to answer a question with a lot of details, you should begin with the most important facts in the first paragraph: who, when, where, why, etc., and if you don’t remember some information, you have another ace to play: “pad the test out” with general ideas.
Step 6: Trust yourself rather than your classmates
Don’t cheat on a test. By doing so, you will stoop pretty low. The most intelligent students sit usually near the teacher because they do not want to be distracted or asked during a test. So, the other students around you are in the same situation as you are. There is no point in asking them this or that question. Trust
yourself and gradually you will gain confidence for future exams.
Step 7: Control your emotions
A lot of mistakes that we made during an exam are the result of anxiety, the feeling of nervousness that examinations produce and physical and mental fatigue after long hours studying for the test. Take a deep breath from time to time and do your best to maintain serenity because pressure makes us forget even the easiest things in a test.
Finally, remember that a test is just a piece of paper with questions and topics. It is neither more nor less than that. A test does not necessarily reflect your ability to do this or that or your knowledge. I know a lot of students who do well in a language exam, for example, but cannot start a simple conversation using the language they are studying despite their grades. Study to learn and have fun and you will see that to pass the exam will become easier.
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