If you're a student or parent, do exams stress you out?
Your answer is probably "yes".
(Many parents seem more stressed out because of exams than their children!)
There's an ongoing discussion about how we can improve the education system, but exams are definitely here to stay, at least in the short term.
I strongly believe that the purpose of education goes far beyond getting straight A's, but I also recognize that it's important to deal with exam stress in practical ways.
Almost every student wants to perform well academically. It's the rare student who simply can't be bothered at all to even try and pass his or her exams.
Together with a team, I conduct a holistic programme to help students achieve exam excellence.
Here are just a few tips I have for students:
1. Turn off your Internet access when you're studying
Many students tell me that the Internet is their biggest distraction. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are just a click away—a temptation that often proves too strong to resist.
If you really need to use the Internet for your work, download all of the necessary information at the beginning of your study session, then turn off your Internet access.
2. Work in 30-minute blocks
Most students find it difficult to concentrate intensely for more than 30 minutes at a go. Every 30 minutes, take a five-minute break to relax your mind.
During this short break, don't check your email or reply to your text messages, because these activities stimulate your mind. Instead, go for a short walk or play a musical instrument.
3. If you feel especially unmotivated, set a timer for five minutes
Then get to work. Tell yourself that you'll be able to take a break after those five minutes are up. The chances are that after you've started studying for five minutes, you would have gotten into the flow of things and would want to keep going.
4. Review your notes within 24 hours of learning a new topic
Because of the way your memory works, it's crucial that you review your notes within 24 hours after a lecture on a new topic. This is the crucial time period within which you need to consolidate your learning.
5. Explain to someone else the topic you want to understand better
Teaching someone else is one of the best ways to ensure that you understand a topic well.
If you find that you're unable to explain the topic in simple language, it's a sure sign that you need to spend more time immersed in the material.
The ability to teach someone else about a subject is a strong indication that you've mastered the content yourself.
6. Turn your phone to silent mode and place it at the other end of the room
Another remark I hear from students is that their phone often interrupts them while they're studying.
By turning your phone to silent mode and putting it at the opposite end of the room to where you're studying, you minimize the likelihood that a text message or a sudden urge to play Angry Birds will sidetrack you.
When you're taking a longer break, you can go check your phone to see if you've received any urgent messages.
7. Before you begin a study session, ask other people to give you privacy
If you do this, it's less likely that your siblings or parents will disrupt your study session.
When you show others respect by requesting, in advance, that they not disturb you, they'll show you respect in return.
8. Set daily goals
This way, it's much easier to keep track of your progress. In addition, it adds structure to your studying efforts.
I recommend that you set these daily goals the night before, i.e. on Tuesday night, set your goals for Wednesday. This way, you'll be able to hit the ground running on Wednesday morning.
At the end of each day, review your goals to see whether or not you've achieved them. Ask yourself how you can improve your studying effectiveness.
9. Celebrate even your small successes
It's crucial that you reward yourself when you achieve small successes, such as completing your daily goals. This will give you an added incentive to keep your motivation and discipline levels high.
You can celebrate by doing something you enjoy, such as reading a novel, eating some food you like, or watching your favourite TV show.
10. Get eight hours of sleep every night
Your brain and memory function are significantly worse when you're deprived of sleep. It's counter-productive to stay up late studying when you're already exhausted.
I know that, especially if you're a student, it always feels like there's so much more you could do before you go to bed. As such, many students tell me that it's extremely hard for them to get more sleep.
I recommend that you increase the amount of sleep you get gradually. This way, the goal will seem more doable.
Start going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night, and do this for one week. Every week, go to bed 15 minutes earlier than the previous week, until you're getting eight hours of sleep every night.
Exams shouldn't be the focus of education, but taking exams is a reality of student life.
I trust that these 10 tips will help you to ace that next exam you take!
Daniel Wong is the author of "The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success". He offers a mentoring programme to help students to maximize their education and to find happiness and success. He writes regularly at www.daniel-wong.com. Download his FREE e-book, "The Unhappiness Manifesto: Do You Make These 150 Mistakes In The Pursuit Of Happiness?", here. Download his other FREE e-book, "Singapore Scholarship Guide: The $500,000 Decision", here. Together with his team of experts, he conducts The Exam ExcellenceTM (TEE) Programme.