Exam tips for 2011-2012

Well it is that time of the year again when we celebrate the beautiful festive season.  The malls are all packed and the children are all beaming with excitement, the anticipation is growing and you could tell something’s special is going to happen.  The radios are pumping with parang in Trinidad and Tobago,  Christmas carols in the Bahamas, irie christmas beats in Jamaica and you can’t help but notice how the nights are much cooler and the days are so short.  The birds seem to sing so much sweeter and schools seem to be just a little more tense.  The food courts are not so packed and the play fields are about the same but the library, yes the library is having the time of her life.  The library is not so popular among the quote and quote "cool guys and girls" in school. Its usually more reserved for the geeks, the introvert, the postgrad folks mostly from the humanities, because the engineering and science guys don’t read much anyway, so they are usually in and out in a matter of minutes.

Before I get carried away with the fun and amusement that the season bring I have to lament on the most outstanding memory in my mind which I tend to rekindle this time of year.  It is the most excruciating experience, like a failed experiment with the dramatic buildup non the less.  It is the dreadful "EXAM SEASON" I'm talking about.  Oh yes, it is all too familiar when you enter the examinations season and all of a sudden the flu virus is your best friend or the cold and not to mention migraine headaches.  Murphey's Law in full effect.  In UWI Mona we call this time “beat season”, in UWI ST. Augustine we call it "Mata season” and I believe in UWI Cave Hill they probably call it “Jenkins”; Jenkins by the way is the equivalent of  the popular mental hospital “Bellevue” in Jamaica.

The horrors of final exam has never left my mind and it is one memory which make me wish I had severe amnesia - But I don’t.  I feel compelled to help my friends and students approach this period with a little wisdom, good strategy to help keep their sanity. The great thing about University is that most things happen one semester at a time so you don’t have to commit to anything for too long.  This could be a curse as a matter of fact as we often forget everything we learn after final exams.   But I see it as more of a benefit because you have at most 13 weeks of work to do for any one course and if you are half as diligent as I am you should be able to manage that pace well.  I am going to summarize some key strategies for getting through this nightmare well enough to enjoy the rest of the season.  This list is adapted from my previous article  "Top TEN(10) Exam tips"

  •  Make a plan This is very important because it give you a sense of purpose which will in turn help you to focus.  Break down your study activities into days and hours and do a checklist before each study session.
  • Know Your Timetable One of the worst things you could ever do is miss your exam.  Check regularly to ensure that you have the correct information about your exam venue, time and date.
  • Know the Rules Read and understand the examination rules.  You cannot afford the pressure and repercussions of a misconduct when you should be focusing on writing your exam.  For example Cell phones are not allowed in exam rooms, so make proper arrangement to leave it with someone or at home.
  • Know your rights Familiarize yourself with the University policy regarding examinations so that you can identify if your rights are being violated or denied.  For example if for some valid reason you cannot complete an exam there are facilities in place for you to get reprieve.  Also if you are not satisfied with your results you may apply for a remark.
  • Consult Be sure to consult with your course lecturer to get a sense of what you need to do to get prepared.  usually the course lecturer would have the best idea of what is required in terms of supplementary material, the duration and structure of the paper.
  • Balance your time well Use your timetable to balance the time and schedule of your study sessions.  For example if you have an exam on the 20th and one on the 5th you might want to spend 90% of the time on the first exam leading up to it. For exams that are close together you have to balance them based on your strengths in the different subjects.  Do not however, neglect courses that you are very strong in.
  • Collaborate Form study alliances so that you can keep track of schedule changes and enrich your study experience through information exchange.  Nothing helps you to understand a topic better than teaching it to somebody.  There is value in sharing.
  • Organize Have everything you need for exams in place long before the time -  Calculators, pens, pencils, ruler, tables etc.  Be sure to familiarize yourselves with exam materials including formula sheets and supplementary material.   Know how to use your tables, calculators and datasheets.  Have a strategy for organizing your exam desk. This will improve your efficiency considerably.
  • Rest This is a key part of your productive life. While you often get a lot less sleep during exam season, you need to ensure that on the night before the test you get at least SIX (6) hours sleep.  This may vary for different persons but the key point is that it is better to be well rested and be able to use your brains at maximum capacity than to be tired and fighting to stay awake in an exam.  Of course this assumes that you took the necessary steps outlined above and are well prepared before the day of the test.
  • Arrive on time This is probably the most ignored tip, but one of the most important.  The fact is you are at a disadvantage when you arrive late.  You are normally required to fill out exam receipts and this is allowed before the exam starts.  Also corrections on the exam paper are usually issued prior to the start of any exam.  If you miss all of that, you have less time to do your actual exam as no additional time is given to do it.  Be smart!