With the GCSE season in mind, Sue Evans of The Learning Curve, Mumbles, South Wales, has emailed me a list of exam Do’s and Don’ts. It divides into two – the lead-up to the exam, and the exam itself. Because such lists often tend to be rather long – hence their nickname of laundry lists – I am not going to reproduce the whole, but will concentrate today just on the lead-up. Here are three tips, which besides being good for exams, have their application to life more generally.
The first says:
· Make sure you have all your equipment ready, to avoid having to rush on the morning of the exam.
What does this instruction have in mind? Obviously the normal contents of a pencil case: pens and pencils, ruler, eraser, possibly some geometric implements such as a protractor and compasses. Some Maths exams require a calculator. Whatever the occasion requires, make sure the equipment is what you might call ‘old friends’ – especially if it is a calculator!
Just as one is advised to wear clothes that one is accustomed to at an important interview, so in an exam one wants to have new and dependable, but familiar equipment. The time to get this together is now, really, in the weeks before the exam.
The second reads:
· Check your exam timetable. Make sure you know the room you are in and the time to be there.
It’s the first four words that matter at this stage! The exam timetable presents a helicopter view of the whole challenge. What is the first exam, what is the last? In which week are you going to be under most pressure? The pressure of two exams in a day, or three or four in quick succession, cannot be abolished altogether, but it can be reduced by planning revision with the pressure points in mind. Again of course, this involves a skill for life, the development of a perspective for the and time management.
The third (and last for now) says:
· Do something you find relaxing – some exercise, a warm bath or some relaxation exercises. Get an early night!
Stress, like death and taxes, is one of the certainties of life, so the sooner a person can take it into account and provide regular means for its relief, the better. Beneficial activities are too numerous to list. They comprise all hobbies and sports, and physical exercise like walking, cycling and swimming. Listening to or making music, drawing, cartooning, painting, model-making, sewing, cooking, gardening, decorating, taking tea and conversing with a relative or neighbour, going on an outing to the country or the seaside: the possibilities are inexhaustible.
Every day or two of ordinary routine should include something in the way of healthy pursuits – otherwise life must become flat, weary and stale (to quote Hamlet) – sure symptoms of unhealthy stress. All the more important then to practise a variety of relaxing pastimes in an exam month. And the evening before an exam should always include some relaxation, something pleasant, reassuring and remote from the concerns of the test next day, to let the mind refresh itself and gather its energies.