Getting Through Exam Week

Fred and Ginger

The dance of exams…

It’s time to dance as they say in America. I like that expression because it’s such an uplifting metaphor even though it means that, ready or not, we have reached the time for action.  For me, there are always the inevitable situations that seem to cluster around exam week. It has entered the realm of the comic after several consecutive years. Since stress works for me this year I decided to embrace it. For example, in the most endearing way, the CEO of the organization I work for wondered out loud if I can research and write our annual report before my exams begin on 8 May, and if I will be able to work on exams days.  The answers are it cannot, and no.  But, it does continue the dance metaphor, one colleague shared the highly descriptive phrase ‘Andaba del Tingo al Tango,’ or in other words, one can go a little crazy with plenty to do and a lot of places to be.

For me exam days are flooded with a long steady dose of the ‘fight or flight’ hormone.  Taking two exams in one year was exhausting. Sitting four this year should be fascinating if only for the sheer mental endurance required.  Many of my student colleagues are expressing concerns as the first exam day approaches.  This week I thought I would share some of the ways my study group is coping with the time crunch and unique pressures of exams.  One colleague likes to keep an atomizer bottle of mineral water as a hydration mist for her face when tired or just for refreshing.   I tried it, and it works very well though covering your notes first is a good idea.  Try the Napa Mist Atomizer for a rosewater and grape seed refresher.

Another colleague uses meditation techniques and shared these audio files from YouTube and online.  He says the specific audio waves are helpful when he is feeling tired but needs to keep working.  Darjeeling tea and something sweet also work well for him.  Here is a link to some binaural beats:

http://unisonicascension.com/

http://youtu.be/OLdQIhJucyc

I like a kind of meditation too, one that is incorporated into my exercise scheme. After my morning study session from 5:30am until about 9am I walk for about an hour in the local park and stop for fifteen or twenty minutes of hatha yoga. Hatha is very relaxing and helps work the stress out of my body from sitting so long!  Eating at regular, predictable hours helps me too, but a high protein snack is better for me than something sweet.  Luckily my favorite chocolate is not sweet. It also is not easy to get in Pittsburgh. Perugia chocolate, along and my other favorite treat, Pane Forte, are available at only one inconveniently located shop.  That means rationing is in effect until after exams.  Lapsang Soochong tea is a staple; all the benefits of caffeine with none of the downside.

This year I planned revision differently. I have less wiggle room, which is a little frightening. The real difficulty is the extent to which other things must be compartmentalized to accommodate revising and exams.  Right now I am skimming critical articles and working on text analysis. On Sunday I will begin outlining essays in response to exam questions and will continue that with text analysis right through to my last exam date on 16 May.  That keeps me focused on the texts and critical issues, and lets me work through things in small bits over and over.  I also made a few little tricks to help me be thorough in exams.  Here are some of my mnemonics:

For structuring answers is Section A, text analysis: “Best Friends Surely Use Icons More”  Brief mention of genre, Form, Subject, Use of Language, Image, and Mention other examples in the genre.

Another favorite for producing focused and complete answers to exam questions is: Always Flirt While Peeling Peeches:

FLIRT is comments on text: Form, Language, Imagery, Rhyme/Rhythm/Rhetoric, Theme/Typography/Tone.

PEEL helps to organize meaningful paragraphs: Point, Evidence, Expand, Link.

PEECH stands for Problem identified in the question, Established Views, Evidence in the text, Crucial terms, and Historical context.

In advance of exams this year I thought a great deal about tutor comments on my marked papers. The most revealing is the need to work on process. In response I have been working on developing essays plans by using the actual question for my essay outline as well as my essay thesis statement.

These little things might sound silly but on exam day when the train is late or it’s pouring rain and the toast is burnt every little bit helps. It also helps as we begin the dance, when time is precious and process both is a comfort and means to an end.

Happy Exams!

Caowrites is studying the BA English by distance learning with the University of London International Programmes.

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