Examinations seem like a thing of the past, although I still get nightmares that I haven’t started studying for Hindi yet or that several portions of Maths need to be practiced. That is a recurring dream……….Hindi, maths were subjects studied 25 years ago! Yet they haunt me even now and I wake up thanking my stars that I don’t have to do either.
Those were the days when we crammed pages and pages of information, swallowed tons of facts, memorized millions of trivial details which were forgotten in a few days…………A lot of it was for the short term memory compartment of the brain. Information that just evaporated once the exams were over.
Looking back I now realize that so many of those things we did were completely wrong. It was hard work for nothing. Sitting up, burning up the electricity in vain, wasting precious hours- all for passing an exam.
Is there anything I would do differently? Yes:
• First, I would not leave things for the last minute. I love leaving things to do at the eleventh hour. There is something about the last minute panic attack, which gives a rush of adrenaline and drives you to do things which you cannot normally do. Even so I would try to work all round the year, even if it is to gather precious notes, photocopy them, check which questions are commonly asked and so on. This is the hardest thing if like me, you thrive on the thrill of the last hours of the rat race, where you accelerate and try to zoom ahead. But no! It’s better to be slow and steady and crawl at a comfortable pace.
- Try and understand what you study, Don’t just memorise like a parrot. Try to spend time understanding rather than cramming and mugging up things. Of course some things need to be memorised – there is not alternative; like hard facts and figures. Make up Mnemonics[ aid to memory] which help you to make funny short forms of the most serious stuff. So for example you want to memorise the side effects of a certain medication: you just take the first letter of each point and then make a funny or scandalous or whatever who fancy, story with it. So if the side effects are Drowsiness, Stomach upset and Rash, you take D, S, U and R and make up something you can remember; like Dog Sleeps Under Rug or something terribly ridiculous that you will remember .It has to appeal to you…..that’s all….you will remember it for a long time. Just write the correct full form in the exam, that’s all. With this technique one can remember tons of information in a fun way.How do you think medical students remember so many facts about various things?
• Avoid the caffeine: I remember downing tons of tea and coffee to stay alert and awake- as if it was some magic that would expand the capacity of my brain to suck in more. Yes, it would keep the brain alert for a while but I think that was more the comforting heat of the glass of cutting chai in the hands, which would stop the eyelids from shutting down. It was the fear of scalding oneself with the hot beverage that kept one going although mind and body were tired beyond control. Of course the acidity was another thing. But when youth is on your side you abuse your body and take it for granted. So believe me, ditch the tea and coffee. Drink lots of water instead. Have lots of buttermilk[ just mix dahi with salt and beat well, dilute with cool water]. Have lots of dahi [curd/ yoghurt] and stay refreshed.
• Get tons of sleep: I remember staying up at night, getting up early in the morning and sitting with my beloved books, the entire day. The more hours you put in the better, that was our thinking.
Looking back I know that was wrong. It’s best to sleep a full 8 hours or more if you need it. After a good sleep, you find your brain absorbing so more, sucking in a lot more than the stale brain which stays awake when it should be sleeping.
• Study in good light: daylight is the best. Natural sunlight will keep the eyes from getting tired. Try to find a good spot outdoors, where you can see a few trees, grass, natural beauty. Even a balcony with a few plants is soothing. A room with a bright tubelight which flickers away or the yellowing light of bulb are going to tire you out sooner. So best to get studying done during daylight hours and leave other chores for the after-sunset hours
• Staying away from social media: A huge distraction and the white light from the mobile is not great for your eyes or brain. Besides, why fill your brain with unnecessary trivia about people you have never met or who don’t matter?
• Eat Well: lots of fruits, vegetables are a must. Don’t eat junk and drink fizzy drinks or sweet pastries.
• Take frequent breaks: even if just to stretch out your limbs or to get your blood circulation going….take a break . Don’t overload your brain. Give it a chance to recharge its batteries. Go out, get a breath of fresh air, look around, see people going about their day’s work. Don’t stay closeted in a room with just your books for company.
• Think positive: don’t think of failing. Just be upbeat and positive. Stay away from people [even friends] who go all out to scare you with what they ‘know’ and freak you out with questions that no one knows the answers to. Hang out with friends who are positive, who will share their notes, study with you in groups and buddy with you to study together.
- It’s not Life threatening: However important the exam is, it is not more important than you are. It is not Life threatening .So do not treat it like it is. Just give it your best shot without worrying about the results and whatever happens is fOR the best. In the long run you will get plenty of opportunities to prove your worth.It’s not always the people who get the most marks who do well in the exam of life. So just chill and do your best.
For all those appearing for exams; GOOD LUCK