Everyone is pooled outside of the classroom, anxiously waiting for the room to vacate so we can sit down. There’s a nervous energy in the air, permeating through even the most calm person. Many have their class notes out, mumbling about various facts and concepts. Others quiz each other, reciting definitions that I could say word for word, instead of giving their own “version” of the answer.
Every few minutes, my eyes drift to the clock. Two minutes left.
The door opens, and the time to check one’s notes evaporates. We all file in, and the exam begins.
I’m fairly certain you’ve had such an experience before. Depending on the type of person you are, this may have affected you more or less than it did I. Still, the last minutes before an exam are fairly similar for everyone. The age-old wisdom is still followed: study until the final minute.
I won’t lie: I do this all the time as well, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. However, there’s a difference between looking something up just before an exam, and planning to remember new things right before you write the exam.
I’m reminded of a saying that, as runners, we use a certain expression: the hay is in the barn. This saying is supposed to calm one’s nerves before a race, where one might be doubting their training and preparation for the race at hand.
In the same way, this is how I try to position myself mentally before a test. I tell myself that I’ve done everything I could to prepare myself for the test, and that now I simply have to write it. Sure, I might be exaggerating in the sense that one could always do more, but I make sure to do the best I can before a test, and I tell myself that it’s enough.
What is my best? Well, in my science tests that means I will generally do all the practice problems suggested for me, plus I will go over all the content I’ve seen in class. In this sense, I feel as if I’m prepared, since I did everything suggested to do before the exam. And, it’s all optional, so I didn’t have to do it, but I chose to.
Getting ready for an exam is a stressful affair. I know some people who don’t or barely even study before an exam, and only start on the morning of, meaning they are trying to fill their heads with knowledge with only hours to go. This, I believe, is a losing strategy, because it means you aren’t familiar with the concepts at hand. In contrast, I usually enter exams confident that I know the material. I may have trouble on a question, but I know what I have to do.
Don’t fall prey to the rush of the last minute. By working on the material throughout your time, you’ll become much more familiar with it than if you worked on it for a day.