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The Unreliable Guide To… Coping with Exams

By Nat Shepherd on September 20, 2016 in Other

Photo: Ann Ziety

Photo: Ann Ziety

The season of exams is close upon us. Most people aged 17 or 18 are currently in a state of either denial or deep anxiety. A recent study by the School of Education at UNSW suggests that year 12 is unreasonably stressful for students. In a test group, 42 per cent of students showed symptoms of anxiety that high enough to be of clinical concern. As yet, no one has tested their poor parents. Basically, exams are the pits. Most of them taken when our brains are utterly distracted by raging hormones, yet their outcome can affect the rest of our lives. But never fear, The Unreliable Guide has some tips on how to survive…

Eat and drink well
Believe it or not, our brains use up to 20 per cent of all our energy. That is one greedy organ, and if you don’t feed it properly it will not perform well. Imagine study as training for a marathon; give your brain lots of low GI foods to keep it going. Drink lots of water, because dehydration equals brain failure. Beware of coffee, black tea and all those caffeine drinks. These are false friends that give, but – like all drugs – ultimately take back with interest. Like caffeine, sugar is a powerful stimulant, so abuse it at your peril.

Have achievable goals
Everyone says this, but I don’t mean the goal of getting 95 per cent in your final exam – that just adds stress. I talking about the goals after all this nonsense has passed – lying on a beach in Mykonos, or just lying in bed without feeling guilty. You need a light at the end of the tunnel, so paste up a picture of your ultimate reward where you can see it every day.

Remember that learning is state-dependent
That means if you revise at the beach you’d better be taking your exams there, because that will be the best place for recall. This goes for mental states too; if you revise when you’re high, then you’d better take the exam high too (NB: neither is recommended).

Relax. Sleep. Exercise.
You actually still learn while you relax, sometimes even more efficiently than when you are poring over your books. The brain files information when you have down time, so don’t forget to give it some. Mindfulness meditation is awesome; give it a go. There are plenty of apps if you don’t feel like taking classes.

Keep a sense of perspective
Sometimes we take exams just because we are told to, or because other people expect it. If that’s you, remember that you only have one life and maybe failing this exam will free you up to do something you really want to. Jump off the hamster wheel. If you want to pass an exam so much you can hardly think straight, just remember you can take it again and again until you get what you want.

Ultimately the Unreliable Guide suggests that you always get the result you need, even if it might not be the one you wanted…