The vast majority of all end-the-of-year school exams take place in April, May, and June. They’re very often accompanied by stress, uncertainty, and extrinsic pressure. Throughout your educational journey you probably already encountered a few and are going to face many more. That’s just how life is. Someday I’ll definitely share with you what I think are the biggest pros and cons of exams, and why I think most exams today are completely useless.
No matter how useless and stress-producing they are, 90% of them are mandatory. There’s no escape from hell. Of course, I don’t believe that exams are hellishly bad, just mostly bad, but when approached wisely by both the teacher and the student, they’re a powerful tool, but as I said, that’s a whole another topic for another time. Even though I haven’t written many exams in my life (blame Maria Montessori ;), I designed a simple process that’ll hopefully help you prepare well, reduce (or even completely kill) stress, clear your mind and just ace the exam. It has worked well for me but might not work for you.
Section 1: Plan ahead
Whenever you start a new class, join a foreign language club or dance class, ask the question: Will there be an end of the year exam? If the answer is yes, then you’re going to need to learn as much as possible about it. When? Where? How? What area/subject will it focus on? Being prepared is never a bad thing. Write down the date, location and any other specific info you need. Try writing down only the most important info, don’t go as deep as “The chair I’ll be sitting during the exam has the following dimensions…”. Yea, I know people who do that.
2. The textbook
Almost always there is an official, well-prepared textbook containing all the basic information that you might need on the exam. Of course, if there isn’t one, don’t stress out. Try learning at least all the topics that might be included on the exam, and look for the info in other sources.
Assign all the main topics to every month in the year. Have an overarching “theme” during the month. When you finish studying your current topic, revise last month’s one. Schedule at least 15 minutes every day just to think about that particular topic.
Section 2: Before the exam
1. Last two weeks
When the exam is approaching, schedule two weeks of work just for the exam. Of course, that time should depend on the importance and length of the exam. Clear all the distractions. Revise all the most important and difficult topics.
Try preparing your own “Most important info” list. There are a lot of already prepared recaps, but making your own will also help you focus on the most important and the most difficult. Ask your friend to do one herself/himself and then compare both. You might consider different topics and information as the most important.
3. Clean your mind
This is the actual mind cleaning part, and probably the most important of all. If you have done all the steps above and mindfully prepared for the exam, then you need a break before the exam takes place. Schedule two-three days before the date for your hobbies, time with family or friends, etc. Anything that you like and is not mindless (TV, social, lying on the couch) will do. Don’t shut off your brain completely, just let it flow. Go on a hike, to a museum, visit your grandparents. Relax.
I can tell you from my own experience that if you follow all of these steps, then you truly won’t be stressed out and you’ll just ace the exam. No matter how important or grandiose it’ll be.
If you want to just do it well, clean your mind.