The great migration of the Serengeti, snowdrops emerging from the frosty soil and the bray of a newborn lamb are some of the yearly delights to which the lucky among us may bear witness. While walking through the library yesterday, I was fortunate enough to have been present to the annual last minute cram-a-thon: groups of students huddling around tables, frantically trying to absorb as much information as possible before rushing into an exam hall and having a ‘mind dump’ on their exam booklets. This led me to think: is this the best way to spend to spend the hour immediately before an exam?
It is important to remember that exams tend to test your ability to show your understanding of complicated ideas while remembering and applying facts, formulae and theories learnt through the term. Your ability to do this will most probably be affected by your state of mind, and the best state of mind to be in is, according to Cal Newport, confident and calm. The problem in the mind-dump approach is that it can produce adrenaline which may make you jittery and affect the clarity of your answers.
Imagine Usain Bolt on the day of the 100m sprint final. Can you imagine him actually sprinting before the race? No chance. As the camera pans across the runners, you see him smiling, confident and relaxed. This state of mind helps him to win. By putting in the work in the weeks before the race, and relaxing and visualising success immediately prior to it, Bolt gives himself the best chance of performing to his expectations. You should strive to do the same…
- put yourself in a position to be confident before the day of the exam.
- ‘limber up’ on the day of the exam, by going over points you are confident with, but don’t overdo it
- imagine yourself writing a particularly good essay on a topic you feel confident about
Obviously, your exam is likely to last more than 9.58 seconds. But through implementing a good study strategy and thinking like an olympian you can give yourself the best chance of performing to your expectations.