Surviving Exams

Top 10 Tips on Beating Exam Stress

Okay, people, who out there is right in the middle of that exam-taking phase of their lives?

I just finished my final school exams, meaning that I am now technically Out Of School and, therefore, automatically grown up and responsible, or so I’m told.

I can only hope that my results will match my euphoria at being finished at last.

But getting there was a struggle and a half. There were those 4 am moments of waking up and suddenly feeling certain that I missed an exam and would get a zero on it. Or forgetting my books all over the place and spending more time panicking and trying to find them than actually, you know, studying.

I feel as though I amassed a certain amount of knowledge on how to get through exam season, and in case any reader ever stumbles across this blog who could benefit- I hope this helps. It helped me.

10. Start in time.
This is really the only way to guarantee your best possible effort. Make sure to have a good set of notes way ahead of time. Don’t let yourself slip into the oh-*§$&%-it’s-tomorrow thing. I have a friend who did just that in this last set of exams. Don’t.

9. Get organised.
You know that feeling where you have a huge stack of paper with information on it which somehow needs to be transferred into your brain? Well, staring at the pile doesn’t help. Neither does putting the stuff  under your pillow whilst you sleep. I know this, because I’ve tried. Instead, make up a schedule. Cut that huge pile into more attainable lumps and give yourself plenty of time for each one. And then more time to go over them all.

8. Sleep.
I didn’t sleep at all the night before one of my exams, and so I can say with confidence that it’s a terrible plan. It was like writing through a fog of sleepy pink cotton wool for 300 minutes. Not fun, not good, so try to get several good nights in before exams.

7. Tidy up your workspace.
Whilst this one works, don’t let it turn into procrastination.  You know, tidying your entire house because even that’s more fun than the whole revision thing. However, it helps me feel more focused if I have, say, a square metre of space around me which does not look like the rest of my room (think aftermath of a brutal and messy apocalypse).

6. Drink and eat well.
If your brain is dehydrated, it won’t do so well. That’s science. I’m fairly sure that lots of fruit and veg will also help the motors run better. In Germany, we’re allowed to eat during exams, too, but that’s mainly because they are five hours long and you would otherwise starve towards the end. And it gives you something to do if you’re able to chow on Malteasers and pick out particularly weirdly shaped nuts from the trail mix whilst thinking a problem through.

5. Take breaks.
This one has always been a non-issue for me, because my concentration span tends to freefall after about thirty minutes and so I can never get my brain to stay focused for much longer. My entire revision consisted of breaks with some reading in between. But a friend of mine spent the entire time cramming, twelve hours a day, and very nearly had a nervous breakdown. So I think there’s a balance to be had here- don’t work for more than a few hours without pausing, yet don’t do that thing where you decide to watch one YouTube video and end up binging on everything danisnotonfire has ever uploaded. Find the sweet spot in between. And never forget, in this situation, tumblr is poison. It’s far too addictive to resist.

4. Find your best learning methods.
For me, it’s writing everything out about a million times and then explaining my notes to unfortunate roped-in outsiders (thanks, Mum and Dad). For my brother, it’s making large and colourful posters with all the info on. Some people put tricky things on the doorpost and read them every time they go through the door. Maybe you might benefit from explanatory videos, maybe you find audio books great for remembering things. My history teacher recommended going for long walks and taking your notes with you. This might work for you. Try out a few different methods and see where you get the best results.

3. Get into groups.
If you have mates who will be taking part in the same examinations as you, then meeting up now and again might be a good way to assess your progress and check that you’re learning the right stuff. Make sure, though, that you really are learning- a lot of my study time with friends turned into nattering time, or what Germans call a Kaffeekränzchen. That’s fine, but only up to a point. Discussing the Divergent films never taught anybody maths (unless you know differently, in which case, oh please tell me).

2. Go over past papers.
This works in several ways. If the material doesn’t change too much from year to year, you can use them for revision and check your answers against the mark scheme, getting a feel for the way you’re meant to present information. It’s also a confidence thing- when you’re handed that dreaded piece of paper with the exam questions on it, you’ll have a much better feeling if you recognise the format and know how the marking works.

1. Don’t Panic!
Take the advice of Dad’s Army veteran Jones and “don’t panic”. If you find exam stress a killer, maybe relaxation techniques will work for you. Generally, sticking  consistently to a logical plan of action certainly helps me feel more on top of the game and less aaaargh. Don’t forget to eat and sleep, and prepare all of your things the night before if you need to. For me, this mainly meant packing a huge box with enough food to keep a small army going through quite a lengthy siege, which, thinking about it, is not a terrible exam analogy anyway. (For future reference, tuna and mayo sandwiches, some fruit, trail mix, and a party pack of Malteasers are the biz.)

This tips might work for you, they might not. That’s the beauty of humanity, we’re all different. Give them a try and see how it goes.

Also- and I’m not including this as a tip, because it isn’t- don’t waste the opportunity to capitalise on the terrible revision horrors you’re going through for familial pity points. I have never got away with less washing up than I did in the last few months. In fact, when family chores come around, I’m really rather missing the times of being holed up in my room with my books and the Internet. Now they’re expecting me to be a productive member of society again.

Basically, chin up, get the books out and make sure you have a good battle plan. It’ll all be over before you know it, honest.

I wish you strength and perseverance for any exams coming your way, and tell us in the comments whether you have any tips of your own, are doing exams at the moment or have long since passed that time of your life and are glad as heck.

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Beoga: The Incident

I don’t know about you, but the one thing which really annoys me in music is a thud-thud beat with no variation. To paraphrase Roald Dahl, it palpably turns my brain to cheese.

I listen to a pretty broad range of music, as I dance to Irish folk, play classical music, listen to jazz and love me some rock, and I rarely find a single artist or album who incorporates all these things.

Until now, anyway. Beoga – Irish for ‘lively’ – is an Irish band with a difference. Their album ‘The Incident’ is mainly Irish folk, but also an eclectic mix of folk, awesome drums and jazz. There is folksy-vocal stuff in there too, with some amazing singing talent from Niamh Dunne.

I’ve been listening to this whilst relaxing, doing homework, tidying up, all of it. My favourite song is the very first one, Lamped (awesome for dance warm-up). It’s the one which caught my attention when I heard it in the first place, and which persuaded me to look up the band and their work.

You can go and buy it here should you want to- check it out and see if it’s for you.

The Right to Rule

Have you ever been on a website and had one of those pop-up mini surveys appear, asking you to vote for your favourite car or food, most attractive celebrity or some other completely random thing?
We can vote about so many different things online and make our voices heard in the most obscure areas.

And yet a lot of people I know have chosen not to vote for actually really important things- such as who gets the power over our country. (Yep, that is what this is about.)

Their reason is: ‘Politicians have broken my trust so many times that I don’t feel I can vote for them anymore. Besides, politics doesn’t interest me.’

Now, I am not about to try and guilt-trip anybody into voting. Woe betides that. Free choice is free choice and besides, that would be unhelpful.

What I am going to do is explain why I think voting is the most awesome thing. I’m also going to try not to be boring about it. Let me remind you that I am only just of a voting age myself, and don’t really have the knowledge or the concentration to go all long-winded about things.

So what’s supposedly cool about voting? Continue reading The Right to Rule

Jingo

‘As two armies march, Commander Vimes of Ankh-Morpork City Watch face unpleasant foes who are out to get him… and that’s just the people on his side. The enemy might be even worse. Jingo (…) makes the World Cup look like a friendly five-a-side.’

My first book review is about Jingo because I have very particular memories connected to this one.
I first read it when I was twelve, curled up on the sofa, and I didn’t get any of the (fairly scant) dirty jokes. When I read it again just a year later, I was delighted to see how much more of them I noticed were there, let alone understood. I don’t know whether that’s a good thing- almost certainly not, but there you go.

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, in case you haven’t heard of it, is absolute genius. I haven’t read it in anything like chronological order, having started with Jingo as the twenty-first of them, but as they are all mad anyway it doesn’t really matter.

The book starts with an island called Leshp rising unexpectedly from the depths of the Circle Sea. The problems start when the two large, opposing nations on the shores of the Sea (Ankh-Morpork and Klatch) realise how strategically marvellous the island is, remember ancient feuds against each other and decide to go to war. The Discworld being the Discworld, hilarity ensues. However, Terry Pratchett being Terry Pratchett, it’s not pure comedy, but also a satirical and very, very clever view on issues such as human error, politics and racism.

I think the main reason why I like the book, and all of its series, is that it’s so hilariously clever. There is probably not one single sentence in the entire book without a joke in there somewhere. Yet after reading it, you sit back and think. I wish that everybody I have ever heard make comments about ‘foreign people’ of the ‘Why don’t they go back where they came from?’ kind would pick up this books and give it a good read.

The dialogue sparkles, the characters are as colourful and diverse as a tub of Liquorice Allsorts, and there are so many real-world political, historical and literary references littering those pages that I regularly find myself sitting up suddenly straight during lessons at school, thinking: ‘So THAT’S where he got it from!’ Some of my friends and even teachers have caught on to this and will nod sympathetically, saying ‘Pratchett again?’

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read this book, and that’s the highest praise I can give. The author has been battling Alzheimer’s for several years, but, incredibly, is still writing. He has won countless awards and been knighted for his literary achievements.

So kudos to you for your genius, Mr Pratchett, and I thank you for hours of joy.

If you want to buy Jingo, you can get it here.

The Power of Potential

Absolutely everybody has at least one thing they really enjoy and are good at. I am convinced of this.

But we have a problem, as a planet and as societies. So often, these skills go unused.
And yet they are so diverse and so potentially life-changing.

I love reading, writing, learning about history, languages, philosophy and how societies work. I have been able to speak in a national parliament and be on TV. I have been really, really lucky.

My brother doesn’t like learning about those things, but give him a change to learn more about how to make Hobbit houses on Minecraft or create intricate cardboard replicas of World War Two planes, and he will invest a lot of time, energy and brain space in getting it perfect. He can draw to a level that has won him many art contests and gained him an enviable playground reputation (he sells the WWII planes and comic drawings to his school friends, for instance). But his difficulties with school work and tests mean that art school can’t happen for him, and he is at a loss as to what he should do when school finishes.

We all have things we like to do and things we like to learn more about. But we can’t always do anything with them.

But what do our skills have to do with anything? Especially the things I blog about? Continue reading The Power of Potential

What’s Wrong with Our Wardrobes?

sustainable fashion

Clothes and Us

My school is a non-uniform school. On the one hand, that’s great – we get to express our individuality by wearing the clothes we like instead of all having to conform with an identical uniform. On the other hand, it means have to spend a huge amount of time thinking about clothes.

When I was younger, I just wore what my mum bought me. I had flowery-pattererned cotton trousers, bright, colourful t-shirts made of beautiful, soft fabrics- all nice stuff, all built to last, but scorned by my H&M-wearing, neon-polyester-loving schoolmates. They didn’t care for sensible and lasting. They wanted popular, cheap and flimsy.

We have wardrobes filled with clothes we don’t even wear. We buy on impulse and then forget things. How many of us have crumpled shirts and old cardigans hiding in the back of the wardrobe? I’d bet most of us have.

What’s the solution?

So how do we fix this problem? Do we buy all of our clothing second-hand, upcycle our old stuff and repair all that we can? Or do we buy a few expensive but well-made pieces made from eco materials, and then aim to keep them until they wear out? Continue reading What’s Wrong with Our Wardrobes?

Celebrate World Oceans Day

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photograph courtesy of pixabay.com

Celebrate World Oceans Day today!

Did you know that the oceans cover approximately 71% of the Earth’s surface? That’s not including smaller seas, large lakes and rivers. Really, our planet should be called Water, not Earth. At least 230 000 species live there that we know about- but because our oceans are widely unexplored, there are bound to be hundreds of thousands of unknown species of sea life.

According to oceanographers, we’ve only explored 5% of the ocean. That’s such a tiny amount for our modern society, which seems to know everything and be everywhere. Think about it- thousands of miles of water unexplored by humans.

And yet even though we know so little about our oceans, we’re perfectly capable of destroying them. Continue reading Celebrate World Oceans Day

How green is your garden?

Zen_Garden_by_atomiclemon

image courtesy of atomiclemon on deviantart

How eco-friendly is your garden?

Our gardens are one of the few spaces where we can get back to nature and do (almost) what we choose. When set up right, they can become an oasis for wildlife and people alike. If you’re lucky enough to have one, here’s how you can check how green your garden is. Continue reading How green is your garden?

Trees For Victory- planting for the planet

Aren’t trees amazing? Honestly, think about it for a moment. They have roots strong enough to bind soil together, they provide homes for a huge number of animals and they take greenhouse gases out of the air and turn them into oxygen. Also tree houses are the best.

My school eco club thinks so too, and so we were really excited when we heard about a planet-saving project from a kid our age called Felix Finkbeiner. We got even more excited when we realised that we were going to join in with his amazing project. Continue reading Trees For Victory- planting for the planet

Walking on Water- why shouldn’t we waste it?

Recently, my family woke up to discover that one of the things we always take for granted was no longer available. When we turned the taps on, no more than the merest dribble of water dripped out.

I can’t remember the last time we’ve unexpectedly had to be without drinking water. Suddenly, all those things we do in the mornings were a lot harder. We couldn’t make a cup of tea or brush our teeth, let alone take a shower or flush the toilet. So my younger brother was sent next door with an empty bucket and a hopeful expression. Continue reading Walking on Water- why shouldn’t we waste it?