Exams terrify me. They always have. And it never seemed to matter how much I studied or slept, the minute I walked into that classroom and those exam booklets were dropped in front of me, it was like someone hit the delete key in my brain and kept clicking on the sleep function.
I wish I better understood my own psychology and why my body went automatically into panic (and sleep) mode when I tried to take an exam. Thankfully, as I kept taking exams, I got more comfortable with the process and found myself not passing out anymore. They still terrified me, but I was completing and passing the exams – and that’s what mattered most.
While studying communications at MacEwan University, I learned a few techniques of how I best prepare for an exam, how to quell my fears and walk out of the exam room a confident winner.
The first thing I learned was that cramming doesn’t work. There’s a reason why education programs and courses can take a few years to complete: it’s because learning takes time. If I knew I had an exam coming up, I would start studying at least two weeks (sometimes up to a month) ahead of time and just casually review the material as I went. I would take one night to study one thing, take the next night to study another, and then I’d review what I studied the night before.
Reviewing what you previously studied is important – even if it’s just a quick glance through to remember what it was that you read. In fact, if you remember what you read the night before from a quick glance, that’s good because it means you’re retaining what you need to know and it’s staying fresh in your mind. Keeping material fresh in your mind as you go is important because it will stay fresh when you sit down for the exam and you’ll have no problem recalling that information.
As you review information, bring it up to yourself in everyday situations. In my case, keeping in mind I was studying a lot of writing and editing techniques, I would knit-pick at everything that I read, identify different literary techniques that were being used and even sometimes edit the newspaper or magazines laying around my house just so I could keep applying what I needed to know for the exam.
Practical application is an art in itself and should be taught as a course. When you’re first presented material for an exam, it seems odd and theoretical, and thus harder to recall. But, when you apply what you need to know in everyday situations, you brain will actually be able to recall what you applied the material to with more accuracy than if you just read it out of a book. So instead of just reading about different anatomy in a book, grab a friend and start pointing out all the different body parts; your friend will think it’s funny and you’ll remember all the material better.
I also suggest, wherever possible, studying with a buddy. This way, if there’s something you don’t understand, you can bounce it back and forth between you and your buddy and be able to recall the conversation while testing.
The last thing I always found helped me with exams has been as simple as diet and sleep. It’s best to eat high protein foods and simple carbohydrates: oatmeal, eggs, lean chicken and fish are the types of foods I always found best to eat when I was in exam mode.
As for sleep, I usually keep it to around seven hours but everyone is different. Oversleeping can be as bad as not sleeping at all. In addition to being conscious of the amount of sleep you get, try also doing a simple exercise routine first thing when you wake to get your energy levels up.
You can follow all of this advice and maybe even other great advice from other veteran testers, but you can still fail from one small mistake.
With this in mind, the final point I want to touch on is attitude, which can go a long way when it comes to performance. If you walk into a test with a bad attitude, assuming you’ll fail, then you’re probably going to fail. But, if you go into the exam calm and confident, prepared and relaxed, you’re probably going to do pretty well.
Here’s what I want to know from you, all of my loyal readers. I want to know about your own testing experiences. What have you found works well for you when preparing for exams? What are some of your own exam success stories and what did you do to find those successes? And what hasn’t worked for you in the past and what did you learn about your own studying and information retention style for future exams?
And to all of you CEE Candidates, what have you been doing to prepare for the exams? What NHPCA resources and courses have you been taking advantage of in your studies? How are you helping yourself retain a lot of this information?
Ok, let’s keep it clean on this blog. No shots below the belt, biting ears, slapping or kicking. Let’s keep it constructive and let’s explore ways to study better!
Your coach in the corner rooting you on,