Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock.
That’s time passing by. As each second passes, it’s each second gone.
I am not sure about everyone else, but my classmates and I put up countdowns, counting down the days to our exams.
I heard a story on NPR (National Public Radio) today that called April a transition month. I have decided to find it charming, despite the fact that, in the last seven days, we have enjoyed a bit of spring, summer, and winter weather. It is a study transition month too, shifting from regular study to exam preparation. While wistfully remembering the 88-degree, sunny day we enjoyed last Sunday and contemplating the snow squalls we are enjoying today it occurred to me it could be useful to contemplate the things that helped me succeed in our programs and on previous exams.
Sometimes you just have to work a little harder. The trick, I think, is to work as smart as possible, maximize the results and get everything done on time and to the highest standards. That might be easier said than done, as the old saying goes. Still, I am an optimist, so every day I review my calendar to decide what must be completed today and outline the best way to get it done. For me the most difficult things are switching from one task to another, making sure all of my library materials are on hand when I need them, and getting to bed early enough to wake up refreshed and ready to go at four o’clock in the morning. With three weeks until my first exam now is the time to set a few lofty and inflexible goals.
Do you ever feel like you cannot work fast enough? As exams approach, I am feeling a bit like Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory on I love Lucy. This might be the busiest I have ever been in my life. Over the years, some wonderful role models and mentors have given me some very good advice about time and project management. I will share them here because they are particularly helpful to me now, as I prepare for four exams. First, you can only do one thing at a time. Second, if something is unmanageable, it helps to break it down into pieces that are easy to manage. Third, keep the monkey on the other guy’s back. Finally, good time management means doing what has to be done, not a little bit of everything every day.
It turns out that this was not the week to begin any DIY projects or move the furniture, especially since I am planning a nice big project right after my last exam on 14 May. This week, my project was limited to a cleaning fit in my office. Sometimes a task that lets me lose myself and my thoughts in something other than my major preoccupation is very helpful. Cleaning my office always feels productive, and does not really affect any other area of the house, like where I study. Cleaning and letting go of my thoughts helped me put my revising in perspective and make an inventory of my ‘Reviser’s Best Friends,’ including a day to clear my head and refocus my attention and efforts.
My very best revising friend is the Examiners’ Reports available online as both past exam papers and the examiner’s summary of answers to each question. Examiners’ Reports summarize most of the questions on each exam with points about what makes good answers. They also point out problems with answers and things I can avoid when writing my essays at exam time. Right now, there is a lot of conversation in our student chat rooms about how to prepare for exams. Nota Bene: use the Examiners’ Reports.