My official exam week starts in eight days, but I actually have exams this week. In the Algonquin College public relations program, exam week is notoriously known as “Hell Week,” where students are assigned to teams and have a week to complete a campaign. I’ve had graduates tell me stories of people crying and fighting, and others tell me not to worry and manage your time well.
I’m not going to worry and manage my time well. I am pretty calm and level-headed, but if you aren’t, you may be feeling a lot of anxiety this time of year. Here are some tips to stay cool as a cucumber:
1. Stay organized. This may seem obvious, but a lot of people don’t bother to write due dates or exams in a calendar. You need to have a plan! I use a Macbook, so I schedule everything (exams, major assignments, group meetings, work, networking events, bill due dates, etc.) in iCal, and also have a list of homework and exams in my reminders section to the right. This way, I can see everything by date and can plan when to work on things accordingly.
2. Relax and focus. This is a lot easier to do if you are organized, but you really need to relax. Take a deep breath and have a cup of tea, take a quick nap, or hit the gym. People who are always stressing and panicking stay in an endless cycle: they stress out about how much work they have to do, complain to other people about how stressed they are, stress these other people out, and stress themselves out even more.
Try to relax, focus, and just sit down and get the work done. If you’re organized and have lists of what’s due, start with the most important things first. You won’t get anywhere if you’re running in circles like a chicken with its head cut off.
3. Don’t procrastinate. So you’ve made a calendar and schedule, have relaxed, and are sitting down to focus on your work – but it’s due at 8 a.m. the next morning. Don’t leave things until the last minute! This will only stress you out (as discussed above). Some people say they work better under pressure, but if you’re rushing to get things done you will make careless errors, not have time to properly proofread your work (or have someone else look at it for you), and not have time to ask for help. I like to finish assignments early so I can come back with fresh eyes the next day.
When it comes to exams, it’s easier to study for 30 minutes a night than for seven hours the day before. You will also remember the material better this way. When you’re out of time and stressing out, you’re not going to retain information or perform as well for the exam. The best exam tip I can give comes months before the exam – pay attention and be active in class. I don’t speak out a lot in class, but I pay attention, listen, and think. If you’re engaged in what you’re learning, you will retain it and not have to study as hard later.
These are things that help me be successful during exam time, but I would love to hear your tips and tricks. Personally, my method comes down to self discipline and good time management skills. I make a plan, start things early, and force myself to sit down and get things done. These are skills that will also benefit you in your career once exams are behind you.