Random thoughts on normal things.

Life, Universe and Exams


Examination Tips

Exams and how to beat them

I hate Exams!

We have all had to sit exams at school, college and university. Even later in life there are great many professions for which regular exams are a way forward to furthering your career.

A few years back, I had a chance to give a family member some exam advice. He is a university student and as a young person it is very easy to fall off a cliff into a deep hole of self-doubt. So what follows is the advice I gave based on my own personal experience.

General Studying Tips

When studying, it is no bad thing to be a little bit scared. It really helps to keep motivated. Question is how to channel all that angst into something positive?

Do not procrastinate

Really just don’t. Keep on top of your assignments. Make a To-Do List and prioritize your work. Create a study timetable that includes periods for focussed work and for socializing with others.

Do not compare yourself to others

There always seems to be someone better than us in class. They just seem to find the work easier and irritatingly always seem to be in control. Why do they get it and I don’t?

The simple truth is do not compare yourself to them. Get inspiration that if they get it then so can you.

Avoid distraction

Duh! this one is easy, right? Wrong! When you’re working get rid of all distractions: Whatsapp, Kik, Snapchat…Goodbye! Reddit, Imgur, Facebook, Instragram…See yah later! Take your mobile, turn it off, put it in a drawer, hide it under the mattress or entrust it to a trustworthy friend. Honestly, do this and you can thank me later.

Rise to the challenge

Studying is hard. But, of course, it has to be.You’re doing something which you wouldn’t normally do.

If you want to succeed then put your working boots on and wear your thinking cap. Think of it this way: Those University smarty-pant examiners are trying to say Prove yourself! and you are going to play their game and win.

In return, you will gain an understanding of: self-discipline, self-sacrifice and ultimately, self-satisfaction.

Keep calm and carry on

No matter the situation you have to think slowly and rationally. There is a time and place for fast irrational thinking but this isn’t one of them. These exams are but one event in a series of events that will make up your life. Don’t stress, don’t panic, calm down. Remove yourself from the problem.

You do know what you have to do: Stick to your study plan or else seek help from a responsible person such as a Lecturer or a friend.

No time to slack

Again, execute good Time Management, by way of a study timetable. Ideally, write one at the start of the term. Don’t procrastinate in not writing one!

Your time is precious – so don’t waste your valuable time messing around when you know you should be focussed on your studies.

You have potential

This is especially true for University undergraduates. You have worked exceedingly hard to get to where you’re at. You have earned your place, hence please do exercise your right to fulfill your potential. Go right ahead.

Future in your hands

I strongly buy into the notion that:

Who we are today is defined by our Past Experiences.

From this we can extend it to say:

What we become tomorrow is defined by our actions today.

For example, you are just getting ready for a 2 hour session of quality study in the evening. Your friends knock on your door and invite you to see a cool new student band playing in the Main Student Buildings. What do you do? Well, it depends on what has happened so far and what your immediate commitments are. If you have banked enough Study Credit and there are no pressing deadlines then why are you sat there? Go. Now. Have fun! However, be prepared to thank them kindly, promise you will make time for them later and shut the door.

Think of it this way: Right at this very moment, you are making and weaving your future. Exciting, isn’t it?

Enjoy yourself

All work and no play makes Jack & Jill miserable and grumpy. Out of everything I write this is perhaps the most important. What is the point of doing anything if you can’t have fun every now and then? Keep a sensible positive attitude, stick to your study plan so that when you have those regular TGIF Nites to kick back and chill out, you really do make the most of it.

Life is more than the individual you, it is about making & enhancing relationships with people. So whether it is a face-to-face, on an Internet Forum, on a mobile messaging app, Sports, Music or even enjoying some Vodka Tonics (hold that lime!) or Dirty Vodka Martinis…whichever you prefer to do Life, just surround yourself with people.

Getting stronger

We have all heard it before:

What doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger.

Overcoming a challenge arguably requires: focus, clarity of mind, freedom of spirit all on a foundation of self-sacrifice. You can’t master that from a teacher, a book or even this blog. You have to simply experience it yourself.

Desire is the essence of Man

This is one of my favourite phrases. Back in 1677, Spinoza wrote:

Desire is the essence of man.

If you want to pass those exams then Desire it so much that you’re willing to Execute the Actions necessary to satisfy your desire.

Aut viam inveniam aut faciam

Chigwell School’s motto is another firm favourite phrase of mine, which translates to:

I shall either find a way or I will make one.

In other words, just try, keep trying and if you are not getting ahead try something different. But keep trying.

Fight to survive

Life is – quite simply – unfair. Just when you think you have reached stability someone or something or some circumstance pulls the rug from under your feet and you land majestically on your extremely fine ass.

Ok, great, get up….SCREAM, SHOUT……get it out of your system. Go for a run, have a walk, ride a horse, climb a mountain, bake a cake, talk to a friend (such as Dr Bazza) but try to become rational as soon as you can.

Fight for what you want. I’m sorry but that’s just the way it is. You do what you have to do.

How to achieve

I have already mentioned Spinoza. He has a structured style of reasoning which I find quite compelling. I would like to suggest my definition of Achievement:

Achievement is a function of: Confidence

Confidence is a function of: Practice

Practice is a function of: Quality Effort and Time

If you put in high quality effort into your studies over a period of time then you will get good at it. As you practice your chosen subject you will gain confidence – it will become easier.

What can you practice to gain confidence? Well, experiencing exam conditions (for example, by working through past exam papers) is important in two ways:

  1. Applying your knowledge under exam pressure, and
  2. Learning good examination technique:
    1. Time Management: to make sure you have selected and attempted the right number of questions and managed to leave some time to check them.
    2. Staying mentally calm, rational and in control

When you apply what you know during an exam your confidence will help you achieve the best result you are capable of.

The Exam

You’ve made it to the moment of the Exam. Well done! It is completely acceptable and normal to be exceedingly nervous.You are as ready as you ever will be. I bet seasoned Sprinters at the Olympics Mens 100m Final are all nervous in the hour leading up to the race.

The key here is Relax. Just by expecting to be nervous and knowing that you’re going to stick to your exam technique will help keep those nerves at bay.

During the exam, you know what I am going to say, don’t you? Yes, relax some more. Stick to the game plan. Execute your exam technique and stick to the time constraints so that your knowledge can flow into your answers.

Afterwards, it is up to you. Some people like to forget their exam. Other’s go into full detailed debrief mode. I like to briefly go over the answers in my head to get a feel of how I did, what part of my technique worked, what needs to be improved. I then forget the exam and move on. It’s over. Nothing can be done to change how you did. So move onto the next exam or if it is your last one then, Congratulations!


In my mind’s eye, I see exams as a Network of Challenges & Hurdles which are inter-connected by Paths of Preparation & Perspiration. You are much more capable than what you think you are. Don’t fall into the trap of the Imposter Syndrome.

Life obviously doesn’t prepare you for unexpected exams. However, if you have a known future event such as: a work presentation, a job interview or even something like a Wedding Speech then I hope some of the ideas above can be of assistance to you.

(Note: Thanks Ricky for the pictures.)


2 responses to “Life, Universe and Exams

  1. Opinionated Man Wednesday 30 March 2016 at 5:38 am

    Some great advice for students!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bee Man Bunty Tuesday 29 January 2019 at 10:45 pm

    Wow…thank’s are a genius indeed..I wish you all the best.

    Liked by 1 person

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