Acing Examinations!

April is the cruellest month . . .” begins the first line of The Waste Land, the signature modernist-434-line poem by T.S. Eliot, one of my favourite poets. I will amend this to say March too, for that’s the month for examinations; truly cruel to you, dear students! This is the month which makes/mars you, in a society where examinations have become a necessary evil. There is no short cut to success may sound so very clichéd. Well, this is the first thing you should remember when you are preparing for examinations. Gear& revise well. Note that you need to prepare differently for different types of tests/exams. Competitive exams need long term preparation; final exams need systematic preparation while your school level exams may need preparation of weeks. 

Prepare a good time table.
Many students don’t know how to prepare study time table. Many a time they prepare a time table that is lop-sided – studying their favourite subjects over and over again and neglecting their difficult subjects/topics. In fact, it pays well to spend more time on the latter. The attitude should be – there is no getting away from this difficult subject/exam; therefore I might as well learn it well. Studying for exams doesn’t mean that you get rooted to your study desk. Give room for relaxation, entertainment and short breaks. There is a limit to how much you can absorb in a given time. 
Never fear or hate a subject/exam and be confident.
When you sit in front of your book with fear & hatred, be sure that it will affect your performance. Some students study well but still may be much afraid of exams. They get tense and even go completely blank before an examination. This results in poor scores / scores below one’s actual potential. So let go all your fears and free your mind before starting your study. You have to be confident and it is the most essential power you should have for attaining victory. This positive climate that is created helps not only in proper understanding but also in retaining what you study.
Where you study matters!
The study atmosphere must be conducive to learning. Do you think you can watch TV and study? Listen to loud music and study? You may say it is possible, but you won’t understand much through this exercise. So it is essential to select a place where you feel comfortable, relaxed and can concentrate. Make sure that while you are studying you are focussed.Some students can even get distracted by books that they have to learn – other subjects. They suddenly feel that they have not revised enough of this or that in that book. Early mornings and late nights are most preferred according when all the surroundings will be in silence and you can concentrate more. Even a mirror in the room or a window facing the road can distract you from your sole purpose.
Distractions galore!!
Today we live in a world where there are too many gadgets around us to distract. So be away from distracting things like story books (if you are an avid reader – e-books and Kindle too 🙂 ), I-Pods, mobile phones, PSP stations and game boys, computers, internet & social networking as well as television. Even having too many friends can be a distraction while you are on study leave. Imagine the phone calls and the status updates and the newest version of the Angry Birds!!! How can you study anything at all with these things in mind? So play cool, lie low. You can bounce back with more vim and vigour after the examinations are over.
Posture is very important while studying. Don’t study lying, crouching on your bed or lying on a chair. Sitting straight with your spine erect keeps you alert and is also good for your posture. Do not keep your legs on the table and above the head level. This will affect the blood flow direction and cause drowsiness.
Note-making while studying:
While studying it is good to make brief notes so that you can remember all points while doing revision with the help of that note. Remember, the operative word is points not grammatically correct sentences. An ideal note shall include all important formulae and figures and also other important points.
Sleep well.
Many students resort to last minute studying and burn the midnight oil. You have to sleep well. Sleep deprivation studies shows that you need to have at least 6 hours of sleep to act and think rationally. On the eve of the exam you need to sleep well, at least for 6 – 8 hrs. Remember this will have a great effect on your exam.
Eat healthily.
Did you know that breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner can all affect how you study, and in turn how your perform in an examination? In fact, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. And it is always better to steer clear of fatty & fried food at night. Many students are so tense on exam days that they skip their breakfast and in some cases even the previous night’s dinner. Fasting on exam days is counterproductive. Nutrition Scientist Claire MacEvilly explains why it’s important to maintain a balanced diet throughout the exam period. She says:
·        Although weighing only 2% of total body weight, the brain uses approximately 20% of the body’s energy at rest. This is why regular, nutritious meals are important during exam time.
·        The brain is powered by energy which comes from broken down food. The primary source of energy for the brain is glucose which comes from carbohydrate rich foods like breads and pasta. The brain’s energy stores are very small, so to keep it functioning at its best, it needs constant glucose replacement.
·        Food influences mood, but mood also influences food choice. There is no magic food to relieve stress, but we would recommend that you avoid skipping meals at all costs.
·        There is no such thing as good or bad foods for exams, or any other time of the year. There are however bad habits! Focusing on one particular food is a bad thing, so you shouldn’t really be eating vast amounts of one particular food.
Keep your body hydrated.
Your body is about 60 to 70 percent water. Blood is mostly water, and your muscles, lungs, and brain all contain a lot of water. You need water to regulate body temperature and to provide the means for nutrients to travel to your organs and tissues. Water also transports oxygen to your cells, removes waste, and protects your joints and organs. So drink at least 8-10 glasses of water every day. When I say water, it is just water – not sodas, coffee/tea or juices. And don’t forget to have a glass of water before you go to bed, for it is essential to keep your brain cells charged!!!
Just before the Exam.
Make sure you have taken to the hall your Hall Ticket, pen(s), pencil, rubber, scale, geometry box and so on. [It is always better to pack your bag on the previous night itself so that you don’t forget anything in a hurry the next morning.] “Neither a borrower or a lender be” (Hamlet, Act 1 Scene 3 line: 75), the famous line of the Bard, William Shakespeare is more apt in the examination hall than anywhere else. In any case, no examiner will allow you to borrow or lend! Once you get the writing sheets, fill in all the details with precision. Copy the correct roll number from your hall ticket. Before you get the question paper, sit quietly, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. This can calm your emotions, reduce stress and help yourself think more clearly. When you get the question paper read it well. CBSE gives you 15 minutes reading time and make the most out of it.
Write and Present well.
Examiners look out for specific answers so that they can give you marks, but they’d rather not search through a disorganized or illegible mass of writing to do so. They won’t give you extra marks just for writing a lot either, so answer the question and move on. Present your work legibly and in an organized way, with clearly labelled question numbers and diagrams. Whatever you studied or prepared your marks will depend on how you present them in the answer sheet. Remember evaluators go through 30 to 40 answer papers. They will scan for points. So try to present answers in points. In essay questions don’t forget tounderline the important points. Your hand writing also affects your marks. Write neatly. If it is not good enough, don’t worry, if you presented it in a good manner you can score more marks. Take care to manage time well and attempt all questions. If there is any question out of syllabus, you just attend it. Usually full marks are awarded for such questions.
Malpractice is taboo.
Never malpractice in exam hall as you won’t be allowed to continue the exam or it may even affect your marks. In some cases you will be barred from writing the examination for the next couple of years. Your future is doomed. Before entering the exam hall check your pencil case/pockets and ensure that there are none of your note-making sheets there. Even it is an inadvertent slip, CBSE considers this as malpractice. Besides, this year CBSE has circulated the names of students and schools who indulged in malpractice in the form of a booklet. It’s a shame for you, your parents, your teachers and your school. If you don’t know answer, don’t write. Keep in mind that you are writing exam for you, for yourself.
Believe in yourself.
Have faith and belief in yourself. YOU CAN DO IT!!! This confidence about what you can and will can always produce pleasant results.
Believe in the Higher Power.
Ask the Higher power to give you energy, wisdom, strength & courage to face the exam. Make sure your mind is free at least 5 minutes before exam. So avoid last minute rustling of pages.
After exam what?
If I were you, I won’t discuss soon after exams. The exam is over and there is no use spending time on a post mortem! This won’t do me well and may surely affect my forthcoming exams. If my friends are discussing question paper I would avoid them and get home soon. Have a good lunch and sleep for a couple of hours before I start with my next text / subject.
To conclude, do think about your parents, their difficulties and sufferings and how they care for you. You owe them much, don’t you? The best gift you can give them is by doing well in your exams. However, do also remember that you study not for them alone, but for your own rosy future. The next three months – slog it out and you would have made your future! Competition in India is nail-biting; therefore give your exams your best shot.
I began with T.S Eliot and the Waste Land [I remember I was so enamoured with this poem that I memorized all its 434 lines… and also the one and only Dr. P Achuthan, my English Professor at Government Victoria College, Palakkad and my former Principal, who taught us this revolutionary poem. I still remember that due to college teachers’ strike, he held his lessons at his home for the ten of us!!] – and am sorely tempted to end this post with the Shanti Path “O śānti śānti śānti”! May you do your exams well and may peace rein in your mind & homes!!

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः
This post is dedicated especially to all my senior girls at Our Own English High School, Sharjah.