Congratulations, you’ve made it to the home stretch.
Before you stress out anymore or start freaking out about the daunting task that lies ahead, I want you to first congratulate yourself on coming this far. You’ve completed 80% of your journey, and after this one last hurdle you can finally be free. Yes. Free.
I think it is important for you to realise that the hardwork that you’ve put in for the last 2 years should, at this point (ideally), pay off. But unfortunately, you have exams worth 70%+. So the effort that you put in from this point forward is worth the most. This is good news if you feel like you’ve slacked for the past 2 years (you can still get the mark you want!), but perhaps not so great if you have worked darn hard over the past 2 years and its only going to count 24%.
But here’s what I believe is the best way to get yourself as best prepared for these final exams.
Before Exams: Preparation
- Keep rested. Ensure you are getting enough sleep and that you are not burning yourself out studying. Doing 8 hours a day is definitely a feat you should be proud of, but if you’re too tired by the time you get to exams, all that study may have gone to waste. Do a reasonable number of hours without burning out (this varies from person to person), and don’t burn the midnight oil trying to cram, even if you can have a sleep- in the next day. Try to put yourself on a consistent sleep schedule (just for a few weeks before, and during exams), so that your body can be rested.
- Eat well. Sounds obvious, pretty straight forward. I won’t waste your time. (But of course, a bit of chocolate and ice cream never hurt, just don’t eat this as your only source of food).
- Plan your study timetable (and breaks!). Plan for the week, in days, and be specific about what you want to accomplish each day. This way you can see the big picture of what subjects you are doing and perhaps which may need more attention. Schedule regular breaks and block out time for yourself, especially on weekends. For me, I found that it was easier to schedule certain subjects into specific time blocks e.g: 9:30 -11:00am Mathematics, 11:00 – 11:30am Break etc. and literally plan each day. I would plan for a week like this, so that way I could see which subjects I was doing, how often, and which needed more attention. Under each broader subject I would have more specific tasks like “Work on calculus”, or “Do a past paper 2” and as much as possible I would try to finish this within the given timeframe. But having said that, do what works best for you.
- Adapt your study timetable to your exam timetable. Obviously if you have a Math exam the next morning, you probably shouldn’t be doing Biology, and if you have Biology and Economics both in the first week, its going to be pretty hard to cram both of them the night before. So think ahead and study those two subjects ahead of time, rather than trying to cram later on.
During Exams: Managing Stress and Fatigue
- You’re going to be tired after each exam (from experience!). Just a heads up. Try to avoid heavy study the night after an exam, because chances are all you are going to want to do is sleep. Studying while tired is not fun, and it does not work (I made this mistake!). Study everything well ahead of time, and trust yourself that you know your stuff the night before, and go to sleep earlier (you’re going to want to!). It may work better to go to bed earlier, and study in the morning.
- You may be more stressed than usual (like before mock exams, simply because mocks don’t count at all- only for school marks). I found finals are far more daunting, because the weighting is insane. Be prepared for this and try to manage your stress. Meditation, yoga and focusing on your breathing works well. Try not to act on the stress by cramming like crazy, because this will only tire you out. Be reasonable about your study and stay confident. If you’ve done your work, you won’t just stuff up a set of exams. I mean, you got through all your mock exams just fine! And even if you do stuff it up in the worst case scenario, remember that you can do anything you want to do in Uni anyway, it will just take more time.
- Prepare everything you need for your exams the night before. Pack your pencils, sufficient pens, rubbers, sharpeners, calculators, rulers into a clear pencil case (I just used a super large snap-lock bag) the night before. Pack any necessary study material you will need etc. so that way you’re not stressing out the morning of the exam looking for things! Make sure you have also planned a way to your exam so that you can be there early, and gather your thoughts before you sit the exam. Be aware that there may be traffic, so always leave ahead of time!
- Keep calm before your exam. Don’t hang around people that are likely to stress you out, and don’t cram outside the exam room. Instead, it may be useful to sit by yourself and gather your thoughts, focus on your breathing, and perhaps take a while to picture yourself in the exam room flying through the paper. You may be more nervous than usual before the very first exam, but just be aware of this, try to manage it, and just know that it will pass as you get the first one out of the way.
- Don’t burn out. It is easy to burn out as you get towards the end of the exam session, especially as you sense freedom coming closer and closer. Try to keep focused on the task ahead, even as distractions increase.
I don’t think its necessary to write about what you should be doing after you’ve finished final exams, so I’ll leave it here.
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