A Survivor's Guide to Exam Season

For my first post I have decided to opt for a non-History of Art related topic. But an almost universal one for people my age at this time of year. I am not an education specialist or examiner, the thing that qualifies me to write this is the fact I am currently in fully-fledged Exam Mode, and the fact that I have now survived two major years –GCSEs and AS levels… and the fact that I am writing this just proves that procrastination during these months comes in all shapes and sizes (see point 4). Sooo on with my Survival Guide.

1.    Avoid All Friends, Family and Social Media
Ok, well not quite. But if you could do this without alienating everyone you know and love, then I would suggest it. Why is it that when you end up having that ‘Omg We Are All So Stressed!?’ conversation you end up feeling 100x worse? Even when everyone is totally agreeing that we haven’t started revising, we also don’t know that statistic from 1936, and we also spent more time on making our revision timetables than we did actually revising… it still leaves you feeling weird. Maybe it’s because you know deep down they probably are fibbing. You’ve also heard these very same people reciting stats from the 1930s, swapping cue cards and cancelling arrangements to revise. Maybe it would be better if we all stopped comparing our revision with one another and just got on with it!!
Shut out other people's stress and focus on yourself

2.    Be sparing with revision timetables
I swear by lists and timetables (inception: this is a list right here.) But I do have to limit myself. Revision timetables are great when you write down everything you need to do. I work back from the exam date to see when I needed to start (and chances are I had to start revising two weeks before I ever do). Be detailed with topics you need to learn (don’t just write Biology, write Immunology.) I’ll even let you colour code. But when you get to that point where you are changing the size of the boxes, downloading a new app that will do it, or reading reviews of apps to see which one is best, putting emojis next to each subject to jazz it up, instagramming your timetable ‘coz it’s just so photogenic… you have to hit the breaks. Spend an hour max on a revision timetable. Because if you have time to make a hashtag-worthy timetable, you have time to actually revise.

3.    Prepare food
Know what you’re planning on eating in your breaks. That way you won’t spend ages staring at an empty fridge rather than actually having a good break from work. It also stops you just eating snacks. When we are stressed we crave more high-sugar foods because of the cortisol-induced fight-or-flight response which makes us feel we need high-energy foods (See, I did my psychology revision). Sucks for us though because chances are we’re gonna eat chocolate sitting at our desks feeling sorry for ourselves, which just makes us fat, kids. So moral of the story: plan what you’re eating so you won’t go for the chocolate and have a crash of dopamine making you feel even more emotional after the short term energy boost.

4.    Don’t kid yourself about procrastination
We all know that feeling when we are just going to scroll through our news feed once then we look up at 20 minutes have gone past. But the worst type of procrastination is when you’re kidding yourself that it isn’t procrastination or that it’s useful. Take the Epic Revision Table Of All Time: pretending how pretty the revision table is will really affect your exams. Or when you spend half an hour rearranging the pens on your desk because this will help you to remember the relationship between speed and distance (or some other cool scienc-y thing I’m not clever enough to write about.) If you’re going to procrastinate don’t kid yourself that it’s helping you. (Eg: reading this blog. Or in fact writing this blog… dammit I need to stop!!)

5.    Redecorate your house
Ok well don’t redecorate per se, and maybe not the whole house. But make sure that wherever you revise, it works for you. Make sure it’s tidy, light and comfortable, although don’t make it too comfy that you find yourself drifting off. Put your revision timetable at eye level to inspire you, make sure you have space for all your notes, stationary and food (make sure you have plenty to nibble on.) But also make sure you have enough room to stretch so you don’t feel crowded by all the work. Don’t have any distracting things like photos or mirrors in front of you ‘coz you’ll only find yourself pulling faces at your reflection rather than working!

6.    Get a gym membership
It is so important to keep moving during study leave and exam time or your muscles become tight and tense, meaning you will feel more and more lethargic. Factor in breaks where you can go outside, take a walk or go to the gym. Fresh air and exercise is so good at focussing your mind and giving yourself a break at the same time. It also stops you getting ‘cabin-fever’ when you stay inside all day and barely know what season it is outside. Even when it seems like the last thing you want to do, it will so feel worth it.

7.    Binge-watch TV
Ok many people may disagree with me but I love having a show on the go during revision time. As long as I keep it within my schedule, I find it is great motivation. If I know I just have to finish this pile of notes and then I find out what happens to Jon Snow, I always work harder. It’s also great escapism to just put revision in the back of my mind for 42 minutes. It also keeps me organised because it’s way better to just click ‘next episode’ than sitting trying to find a show to watch.

8.    Be realistic and honest
On the one hand don’t try to put too much on yourself. If you know that you can only realistically do a few hours a day, then that’s what you should do, just make sure you factor this in to your timetable so you meet the deadlines. But also be honest! If you know you could do more with your time and can work that little bit harder, then do! Don’t compare with other people but do compare with yourself, know your strengths and limits and work as hard as you can.

9.    Don’t put your life on hold
Do other things with your time!! In the weeks/months leading up to your exams, don’t put your life on hold. It’s unhealthy to have a one-track mind. Work as much as you can within a certain amount of time then give yourself breaks. I have found that family is great at helping with this. Because they don’t have exams, they’ll be eager to help where they can. If you ask them to go out for lunch with you or go see an exhibition, they probably will. It gets you out the house and really reduces stress by taking your mind off revision for a bit. If you have pets (which I annoyingly do not!!) take them out for a walk (I realise I should have said ‘dogs’. Don’t take your goldfish for a walk.) Give yourself a hobby like making someone a birthday card and see friends for dinner or the cinema where the one topic out of bounds is ‘exams’. Do something other than revision once in a while!
Walk your dog (if you have one)... I'll just sit here being jealous 

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