The Exam Season Rush (Part 1)

Exam Season is truly here, and I’ve learnt to just relax a little. And I’m hoping, by the end of this article, you’ll have also learnt to relax a little.

The Exam timetables have been sent out (GCSE timetables), everybody’s snapping all the revision they’re doing and you’re just in the middle of this crazy wave; slightly bemused and very confused as to how to go about your day.

It’s hectic, whether you’re being warned about your great End of Year tests in year 9, GCSEs in Year 11 or these A level exams which they’re encouraging me to study for because apparently they’re approaching in a grand … 15 days from now. One thing that maybe schools struggle to encourage as much is, to see the bigger picture and use the time you have wisely.

We may plan, but there’s always a bigger unexpected plan for us.

That means, when we plan for a solid day of revision, what might actually happen is a journey on some sort of a wild roller coaster ride. Your day might begin by waking up later than you had planned - which means your revision timetable is out of sync with your day (it’s also okay to not have daily revision timetables - I don’t! But I’ll get to that in a bit). Then, while you planned to begin the day revising the structure of cells - turns out you’ve left your notes at school and, whoops.. you can no longer revise that topic.

For GCSE student Sumayyah, such a day would have meant the end of the world, firstly how was I supposed to fit in X hours of revision?! And secondly, if I can’t revise cells, then I simply cannot do any of the other content because the rest of the course has ‘cells’ as the foundation or as the base. As a result, a large part of my morning would be filled with the dreaded s word - stress. Do you sense some procrastination here? Remember, the two most important things are to see the bigger picture and use the time available wisely.

Looking back I empathise with GCSE me, I didn’t know what balancing time truly meant, I enjoyed using Snapchat a little too much and when I had genuine stress attacks, there wasn’t anyone around who truly understood me. So, I’m here to say I understand that you may feel pressure being put on you from a variety of family, friends and yourself.

When anxiety or stress hits, leave your room or your study space - leave whatever is worrying you and go elsewhere. I said it; leave your work zone. Because if that’s where the stress starts, and you stay in the same place while stressing, every time you enter that area again your brain will begin to associate it as a zone of anxiety and negative feelings; rather than a peaceful work environment. You might be reluctant to leave because then you won’t be able to work … But remember, the bigger picture and the management of time.

It’ll be better in the long term to take a ten minute break and compose yourself then return and do a solid hour of quality work than to stress-work; that is, to work while stressed, and only give your work partial attention for 2 hours or more.

Remember to work smarter not harder - work time effectively rather than for long periods of time effectively.

It’s what I was always told, and never really understood until the month of GCSE’s kicked in and suddenly I was being forced to find new ways to learn lots of content in a condensed period of time/ the night before the exam. So, I’ve no doubt I can write up an article in the near future on what exactly effective study consists of.

Secondly, know what's best for you will always happen - even if you can’t see the good in an event immediately.

That might be, you’re forced to have a spontaneous weekend off revision because your relatives from America have surprised you with a visit. Perhaps you’ve completely failed a mock exam which you had worked super hard for... Or perhaps there’s been a family domestic and there’s just no way that you have the concentration or motivation to sit down and work.

I can confidently say I’ve experienced the second and third situations - the first I haven’t (though there have been spontaneous days out - none of which I regret), and that none of the situations have resulted in the failure of a real exam.

So, if you’ve worked super hard for a test or a mock, and the result you get back just isn’t what you hoped for - as annoying as it may seem - you have to look at your exam technique. Again, this is a whole separate article, but when I say that a large portion of marks come from the way you answer the question rather than the content - I’m being serious. It’s only through getting things wrong in tests and mocks which resulted in me reviewing my exam technique and truly reading mark schemes. After that though, it meant the real exams have all gone a lot better and I can say that I appreciate having failed mocks.

It’s good to fail.

So, if you got a D in your Chemistry mock (like I did) or a solid 40% on an R.S. essay (like I had), fear not, know that you can learn from it and raise the mark with just some tweaks in your work. Remember, I’m saying this with 120 days only till my Alevel exams; it’s never too late to start reviewing exam technique.

For Part 2 to this article, stay tuned.

Sumayyah Amin

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