Dear Reader, if you are reading these words, chances are that you have an important exam coming up and that you are looking for some helpful content online. Or maybe you are just looking for a good excuse to put off your revision. If you have been kind enough to read other posts on this blog, you might have seen that I have sat a number of finance exams so I hope that you can let me get away with me referring to myself as a self proclaimed test taker. The whole point of this brief post is sharing what I’ve learned through years of test taking, hoping to make these 5-10 minutes worthwhile for you.
(1) Test taking is a skill
Just like the material that you are studying and trying to cram for your exam, test taking is a skill in itself. Ignore those voices of doubt that you might be hearing and keep reading. Once I have reached a level of comfort with my revision, I will always look at past mock exams and see if I can find any recurring patterns. As obvious as this may sound, if you have a 500 page book but you notice that the questions are always based on given chapters, just focus on those. Exam preparation is also a fight against time so strip away any non-essential topics from your revision plan and focus on the core topics. Don’t waste time on the non-essential chapters if your understanding of the core topics is shaky. Think of your test as a game and ask yourself what is the best strategy to win at the game; you will soon learn via trial and error what works for you and you will soon be able to develop a positive mindset and conviction that you are a good test taker. I argue that the mental component is as important as your knowledge of the topic on test day and you need to build confidence that will help you overcome the pressure on exam day so that you can perform to your best.
(2) Time yourself when doing mocks
This is a mistake that I have seen many people make, including myself. When I was less experienced in test taking, very often I would lure myself into a false sense of self-confidence by solving parts of mock exam questions, without any time constraints, just to run out of time on test day. Before test day, try to take a mock exam under test conditions. I would say that this advice is relevant to any exam. Be sure to get used to taking exams under timed conditions so that you don’t encounter any negative surprises on test day. Knowing that you have taken and solved numerous mocks, you will be able to enter the exam room with a positive mindset which will ease a lot of the pressure.
(3) It’s your body, Stupid
I would say that this is the most important piece of advice in this post. I am sure that you have heard of students doing all-nighters or some pre-exam cramming which led to good results in no time. While this technique might work for certain students, for most students, trying to imitate such stunts is likely to lead to poor results and/or damage health. During my first two years of university, I tried this technique where I would binge on energy drinks and attempt to pull some all-nighters just to be exhausted for the exam. Make sure to get a good night’s sleep before the exam (ideally the nights before the exam) so that you can be fresh on test day. I am sure that you have read about how sleep can help with your memory. Your diet will also have a huge role; avoid junk foods and try to have a healthy diet, especially during your exam revision. Avoid any sugar overload; this might give you some energy for your revision but as the sugar rush fades away you will be tired and unproductive.
This concludes my post, I hope you find these tips helpful. One last piece of advice that I can give is about the pressure that you might be putting on yourself. Often, when we have an important exam, we inevitably think that not scoring well on that exam is the end of the world. It’s not. Will this exam failure matter in five years? Does this score define you as a human being? Certainly not (in most cases), treat this exam just as one of the many challenges of life and give it your best shot. Put your mind at ease and enter the exam room with a serene mind, this will help you perform well. One last thing, good luck!