My take on exam psychology

Its that time of the year again, where preliminary examinations and the A levels see most students engaged in intense, feverish levels of preparations.

I have encountered students who were consistent performers during the entire academic year, but fumbled and "drowned" during major examinations. They knew their stuff well, were armed to the teeth, but on the actual day of the examination, their minds simply drew a complete blank-its as if all their revision efforts have magically evaporated and they were left with nothing viable to put to the answer scripts.

In light of this, I thought I did present a little piece on exam psychology, and the methods I utilized to aid these students in alleviating their fears and concerns when tackling major papers.

1. Before the exam:

Well, you want that A, but don't get obsessed with that thought. Tell yourself you are going to get in there, and simply complete the paper to the best of your ability.

2. Checking of number of pages prior to commencement of paper:

Just run through the pages. Do not be disturbed by complicated looking figures/diagrams or lengthy paragraphs. Your state of mind is very important at this stage. Count and verify the number of pages, and just CLOSE the booklet.

3. Beginning of the exam:

I am talking about the time taken from the instance when the clock starts ticking till when you complete the first question.

A. For maths, its a 3 hour paper per sitting. Take 2.5 hours =150 minutes divided by the number of questions-that gives you the amount of time to complete each question. (You have at least 30 minutes for checking) Do not let that small time deadline per question frighten you. BE COOL.

B. Now, here comes the critical part. Your first question. My recommendation is as follows: Spend about 3-5 minutes seriously scanning the entire paper to locate one question you are confident of completing properly. That's right, you don't have to solve your questions in sequential order,but you must compile your final answer scripts in numerical succession. This is the only question you can afford to purposely exceed the stipulated timing deadline, but you shouldn't take your our own sweet time.During all this while, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT get stressed over time being supposedly "wasted" in conquering your first question.


4. If all goes well after step number 3, your confidence levels should start to climb. Now its not yet over. The second question also matters.Source once more for another question you can take delight in solving, and do it well. Technically, the time taken should start to normalize and ease nicely into the timing deadline per question. Once two questions are in your pocket,your mood will start to shine. In fact, feedback from students seem to point to the fact that their pace accelerates enormously after this and they can cruise along effortlessly.

5. Needless to say, continue this till the entire paper is done, paying heed to the clock at regular intervals. DO NOT panic if you exceed the time limit for certain questions-completing them properly takes precedence over rushing through them to pounce onto the next one. Bear in mind you still have a 30 minute buffer which you can exhaust(but that is only if you have no choice).

6.The key word is FOCUS. FOCUS on the current question you are doing, do not get distracted by mulling over previous partially attempted questions, or worry about subsequent ones.

The above prescribed steps have been effective in pulling some of my students out of their dark psychological trenches, and hopefully they would serve as a useful reference for you. Do note that they are merely guidelines-you still need to exercise your own judgment and sensibility when in the actual exam battlefield.

Tactics, however colorful or fanciful, are still just tactics. Its good old fashioned hard work and practice that matters most at the end of the day.So study hard kids, and all the best for your prelims and As.