The below article is an opinion piece based on a previous student’s experiences, and should be taken as such.
The exam period can be a rather strange time mentally, physically and socially. You cannot really prepare for the emotional rollercoaster you are sure to experience. However, maybe keeping a few of the things I will discuss below in mind, will set you on a better path on seeing the exam period through to the other side.
I remember last year thinking that the year 12 exams were going to decide how the rest of my life was going to track. I can say now, 1 year later, such a sentiment is not necessarily true. Yes, the year 12 exams are very important and how you perform can help shape your options in relation to courses and universities. However, if you end up not performing as well as you wanted to and/or end up getting an ATAR lower than you expected, your life is not over. There are so many alternate paths you can take to get into the university or course you want to. Further, within a couple of months, the ATAR is no longer going to be such a big deal (I don’t even remember what my ATAR was).
You’re still so young and have so much ahead of you. As crazy as it sounds, life will continue after this.
So, you just finished one of your exams and you don’t feel good about it. You feel like you did not know what you were doing, or you panicked, or that most of the answers you provided were wrong. All you want to do is wallow in your failure. However, you have another exam coming up in the next couple of days – how do you move on?
The key to moving on is resilience. Have faith and don’t be too hard on yourself. You may have done a lot better than you think. Further, performing badly on one exam does not negate the other exams which you have performed well on. Nor does it set a precedent for your performance in the upcoming exams.
Remember, the exams and the ATAR are not a reflection of you as a person, so don’t take it too personally. Just accept what happened and promise yourself that you will do better in the next exam.
After sitting one exam, don’t immediately start studying for the next one on the same day/night. Give your brain a well-deserved break – go for a walk, watch your favourite show, take a nap, etc. Only commence studying for the next exam when you feel you have the energy and motivation. Hence, don’t overwork yourself. None of the revision will stick if you’re too mentally exhausted, so you will just be wasting your time.
When studying, some common signals that indicate you may need to take a break include: getting distracted (going on social media, watching Youtube videos, playing online/mobile games), getting frustrated or overwhelmed (over a question you can’t seem to figure out), feeling sleepy or like you’re functioning on autopilot, and more. Thus, when you catch yourself doing any of these things, take a break and commence studying later.
Make sure when you take a break from studying though, that this does not turn into procrastination. As a chronic procrastinator myself, I know how easy it is to say that you’ll only take a break for 15 minutes, only to look at the time and see that 2 hours have passed. One solution could be to set a timer for how long you want to take a break, to ensure you actually take break for that length of time and nothing longer.
You can also schedule your study sessions and study breaks in advance/the day before. One popular method is the ‘Pomodoro technique’ in which you study for 25-minute sessions and take 5-minute breaks in between.
While the mental and physical (staying seated in the same spot for many hours) effects of the exam period are apparent, the social effect is not as evident.
Due to being so focused on studying for your exams, you may unintentionally isolate yourself from your friends and family as you don’t want them to distract you. However, excessive isolation may be detrimental to your mental health. You may start feeling like you are facing these exams by yourself, or that everyone else (in your cohort) is completely ready to ace the upcoming exam while you aren’t.
Talking to your fellow classmates and friends even briefly can help you feel a little less alone during this challenging period. For example, simply asking how they are holding up or wishing them luck before their next exam.
If you are part of a study group for a certain subject, go set up a study session to study together. If you have an older sibling who has gone through final exams, talk to them. They may be able to give you some insight from their own experience. Otherwise, talk to your parents. While they may not be able to directly relate to what you are going through, they have most likely at least gone through something similar or comparable.
The exam period only lasts for a couple of weeks and before you know it, it’s over and you never have to go through it again. You just need to survive this!
Subahaa Maheswaran Year 12, 2019