Saturday, May 18, 2013

Exam session - Give'em hell, boys !

Here it is...

In all it's splendor, it lies ahead of you. The road of misery, torture and desperation. The time of exams is here. The time to unleash your stored knowledge is here. You feel your superficial temporal veins pulsating with the desire to throw all that information towards the exam papers or at the exam commission. But before you go jump your prey, you've got to learn how to enhance your learning skills in critical times such as before - during - and - after - the exam. We've already started with the "after" part (in my previous article), which is also partially the "before" part. Yes. We have entered the vast chapter of the Examination Session. During this lesson you will learn about how holding on to little things can sum up into astronomical scale things.  Also, I will tell you how to medicate yourself to enhance your physical and mental properties. I know this touches some people's hate-gland, but I don't really care, so "bite me". It's doping, so what ? Think about your goal and how much it matters that you reach it. Remember the motivation factor I told you about and use it ! Let nothing stand in your way. Nothing.

We'll start the story at day one of the session. Where do you begin ? What do you do first ? Well... Remember what I was saying about having the intel about your 1st exam ? I also told you that if you have a cunning class chief, you will have the hardest exam first, so that the exam session goes in a descending difficulty glidepath. I also gave you indications on how to collect all there is to learn for this (and all the other) exam(s). From now on, you're going to be stuck in a room with a book in your face. Make peace with this feeling. Be comfortable with it. Let studying be the sole reason to live and picture yourself as a kamikaze soldier whose sole purpose is to locate and eliminate (get the maximum score) with the price of his life. Most exams will have subjects that are given to you before. Know which these subjects are and know how the exam will happen.

I'll take things systematically:

A) Written type exams
a) Classic subject-text exams !
The most simple, yet the most subjective form of examination. Unless the examinator knows what he's demanding. It's simple, because you can remember information under the idea of a story. It's not that hard to pass them. If you can learn the backbone of each class, you can most surely create information around that core.
What to expect:
In this type of exam, you'll get everything that was told in class or everything that was told in class but from the book(s) associated with that class. Oooor you might get a list of subjects that are required to be prepared by you from the book/class textbook (this means less reading, better prepping and the safety that you'll more easily associate the subject's title to that bit of text you need to output on your exam paper). Most profs will either throw 3 large subjects at you or 5 smaller ones. It's more than enough to test your "strength".
Studying for it:
I always used to start by counting the actual pages I had to learn. Then I'd divide the number of pages to the days I had left until the next exam minus one. Nota bene: if it's in the 1st day of session, you should mark your exam session start date a week earlier than anticipated. The number of pages you load yourself with for each day of the session must be respected always. I don't care how you do it. But never, and I must stress he word "never", make yourself debts. You could end up with unread stuff which could be the end of your clean road. So, you will ask me, why not divide with the entire number of days left until the exam. The answer, is simple: the last day is a repetition day. It is the day, you repeat what you couldn't quite memorize in the days you should've. It's the safety day. It's your possible salvation from death. If you haven't missed anything, than "bravo" I say to you. This pre-exam day becomes the day you rehearse ALL of the matter. Yup ! You've read that right. All of it. In one day. Don't worry about the sound of it. It just sounds nasty. In reality it's just making the stuff you learned a reflex. What this day does, is make an automatism out of the small bits of text you need to output at the exams. Be it subjects from the list or be it other paragraphs. Instead of pushing a bit to remember the text, you will already be quite "full" from the last day. But is it possible to do it ? Sure ! You are not learning the text now, you are only repeating what you've already studied the past few days. Believe me, I stayed around 10-15 minutes for rehearsing half a page paragraph - during my normal study days (the stuff that was in line for that particular day) - because it was the first time I'd make contact with the text ( in the session I mean... after all I'd have heard it before in classes, but still) and I'm no computer hard-disk. When I was facing rehearsal day, I was spitting text out in less than 5 minutes. Sometimes I could go, 3 or 4 times, even more, through the whole exam subjects.
But how do you effectively part your time and study ? I'll give you an example, 'cause they do miracles in explaining: I'd have 50 pages daily before the next exam (again, I'm not counting the last day boys and galls). My usual schedule during session was this:
11:00 - 12:00 = break, internet, food
12:00 - 14:00 = study
14:00 - 15:00 = break, internet, food
15:00 - 17:00 = study
17:00 - 18:00 = break, internet, food
18:00 - 19:00 = study
19:00 - 23:00 = sleep
23:00 - 00:00 = break, internet, food
00:00 - 4:00   = study
4:00 - 5:00 = break, internet, food
5:00 - 11:00 = sleep
Summation = 9h study, 5h break-internet-food, 10h sleep

I know exactly what you're thinking right now. He, he ! I studied much less than I took breaks and ate... and slept. Thing is, there where always small 5 min. breaks among the ones listed here. I just didn't write them. Why ? Because they where placed in between small paragraphs that I finished memorizing. But why would I do this !? I could study much more on a 24h basis. Yup... I could've. Didn't though. I preferred to throw some quality in that study time. When I was studying, I was doing that and that alone. There was a world with two people on it. Me and that Book. Just us. Nobody else. When I was taking a break there was another world with again only two people on it. Me and the relaxation. What I mean is, and you've probably gotten the point by now, is that when you try to learn, do just that, focus on it. Don't learn and sit with your PS3 games console on or whatever. When you're not learning, don't think about the exam. Think that you're giving yourself rest. Stressing out the brain with thoughts about the exam ain't really relaxation. Know what I'm saying. Sooo... why on Earth would I eat, surf the net and sleep so much ? Because I work after the heart model. The heart works a bit (contraction) and relaxes afterwards (relaxation of muscular fibers). It's one of the reasons it lasts so much time in our body always pumping blood, without stopping. Now you know that your heart is in fact a lazy bum. He, he ! There's no real point in studying if you're tired or thinking about something else. Just bear in mind the quantity you need to fulfill for the present day. Divide the number of pages by the active number of hours (the number of hours that you use for studying), in my case 50/9 = 5.55 which is in reality closer to 6. This is the speed I must use... 6 pages per hour. Don't make the mistake of not taking time to relax. Your body won't feel it, even more in this period of the first exam. But it will hit you like a rock at later hours. And then, even the coffee escape may be out of order. Relaxing and eating more than I study is giving me the mental energy to read onwards. By the way... Remember what I told you to about motivating yourself to pull hard this session, for the free time afterwards. I was actually doing this, but at a micro-level. The session being the hours I used for studying and the free time... well, the breaks and food. Man... Lucky I had my parents cooking and all. I'll tell you about the diet later on.
At this style of learning you must obligatory append the meds and diet about which I will inform you of in perhaps another article.

b) MCQ (multiple choice questions - exams) !!
Ahhh ! Relaxatioooon ! He, he... In your dreams, son. If you think these puppies are going down easy, you've got another thing coming to you. Notice the two exclamation signs I've anchored at the "b" point ? That's 2nd degree of difficulty. These exams are so easy to fail ! 
What to expect:
You think you don't have to memorize text, you don't have to remember how to make an introduction to your plea... But hear me, this is no easy task. Yes, there will be those silly little exams where you only get simple choice or a few easy intuitive questions. Most of them aren't. If the prof's a player, you'll receive an average of 20-40 mcqs at the exam. It doesn't matter that much because either way you're not getting enough time. At 20 questions you will get (if he's in a good mood) 20 minutes. Others will give you 15-16 minutes. You will have to read fast, think fast, mark fast. Before you know it, you'll miss out on the last questions and your score will be a disaster. Other than that, a few characters out there like to hand out questions with short text but looooooooong answer text. So before you read point "c" of the question you'll have long forgotten point "a". Wow ! Picture ain't lookin' all that blossom anymore, does it ? But all of the before mentioned trouble put together aren't enough to equal this badass that I tremble at the sound of it... "subjectiveness". Ohhhh, yea ! It's one of those questions when all the concrete data you've read in your session days doesn't quite fit anywhere and at the same time it fits everywhere. I've bucked a few of these in my time. Of course you see it your way and the prof sees it his way. Before you know it, you're scheduled for autumnfest reexamination festival. And the beauty of this type of exam is that it's being more and more loved and integrated by university systems all around the world.
Studying for it:
What I said above is real. So how do you overcome it ? Where's it's flaw. Well, no exam is flawless from what I've experienced. If not during the exam, it's attackable before or afterwards (contestation). Of course it's very probable to receive a bunch of answers marked "a","b","c","d", and so on. So it's only logical to look in the matter to study for lists of items. If you're studying medicine, you could look for lists of symptoms. If you're studying history you could watch out for years or dates. I'm sure you get the point. The wonderful part here is that you can move faster through stuff. I was a bit afraid at first to study only lists of items, or anything that seemed possible to appear as a multiple choice question, but after the first two exams, not anymore. How to start is very important. As I've said before, you gotta divide you learning pages per days. See part "a)", 'cause I'm not going to repeat it. Then it's a simple game of remembering lists. The program stays the same as above. The diet/meds will be the same.
I feel that somehow I should warn you: DO read the question carefully, as some profs would want to catch your attention deficit. They might ask something that does NOT belong to a certain group, rather than something that does. Be aware of this cheap trick. Also, try to keep your head on your shoulders and concentrate during the exam. Especially if you don't have that common sense average 1 minute/question at your disposal.

c) Live-Written Exams !!!
Difficulty: Advanced. There's no bigger pain in the ass than these live exams. These will require attention, fast and full remembering, lighting fast writing, and all you can do to study. 
What to expect:
Expect the worst ! If you've never taken part at one of these babies let me fill you in on how it's conducted. The prof, sitting in the middle of the exam room, shouts out the number of the subject, the subject's text and how much time you have. Example: "Subject 1: Absolute counter-indications of tooth extraction. You have 10 seconds. Start !.... Next subject, 2: Anesthesia technique of mandibular inferior nerve by intraoral access. You have 5 minutes. Start !....". That's the way it goes. Time is very limited here. You have exactly as much time as someone who knew the subjects perfectly or in advance would have. Ugh... dear Maxillo-Facial Surgery exam. I don't really miss them. How ever, I managed to ace them. Why ? Because they too have flaws. Unfortunately, you need to pay in blood, those flaws. And it only works for exams with the same prof.
How to study for them:
Divide your exam stuff per days. See all of the above, etc. Be very careful and study everything. Everything ! Don't miss a thing. You will need to work hard for this type of exam, as the subject could be 10 seconds to 10 minutes long. The only comfort is that you won't be getting 2-4 pages long subjects. That's where the exam is problematic. What's 10 seconds long can only be a sentence or a few words, or a value, or a formula... Get it ? What's 10 minutes long can be as much as a page or half a page or a paragraph. Depends on the prof. If you have more than one exam with this prof, you can learn from the previous. What's his style, his type of subjects, if he prefers some parts more than others, if he enjoys concrete data and not lengthy tales. But you can only obtain this if you have someone who has passed through it or go through it yourself.
Need I say more in studying for this other than work harder than anywhere else ? I hope not. Everything stays the same. Diet, meds, studying hours, etc. Just try and increase your attention a bit. If you don't mind me saying, try to create an automatic response when you check your knowledge. 'Cause if you sit and think during the live-exam, it won't end pretty, rest assured.

B) Oral examinations
About as hard as live-exams, but somewhat more subjective. They're definitely easier to approach. 
What to expect:
Most often you will go in when called and extract one note on which the subject to discuss is printed/written. You will then be sent to a predefined or self-chosen desk (depends on the strictness of the prof) and be allowed a few minutes, until the persons who where ahead of you inside, are examined. More than enough time to cheat, ask around or write your ideas on paper. The good side about these exams is that if you don't know a think, you can ask for another ticket in exchange for 2 or 3 points off your final grade. Don't do that though, you've already ruined your score, so keep some dignity and come back in autumn. Another good side of these exams is that the examinator is most of the time willing to ask you some helping questions when in difficulty or show some indulgence. Well... A good part of them anyway. Some of them may fail you faster than you can say "Ummmm..." (got the joke ?). The bad side of oral exams is that you will have to work your brain just as fast as live exams. Time is really short. Things could speed up for you depending on the people ahead. They may be wooden hard and may fail very fast. And then... you're up ! The worst side for these exams is for some of us the communication problem. For example, I would have no trouble whatsoever in writing stuff down at exams, but when I was face to face with the prof, I would turn red as blood and keep my head in my paper and just read. Yeah ! Really shy guy here. Another bad part about orals is that you might get extra questions, if you got something really really easy. It's crap, but it happened to me once. I was really angry then 'cause they asked me something that wasn't in what I'd get in my subject ticket thingy. Still aced it, though !
So... how should we study for it: Basically, you need to prepare yourself mentally for communication. You should rehearse a few subjects how you would talk to the prof if you were facing each other. Saying "um.. well... the... 1918 and then.... when it ended.. you see..." won't get you anywhere. Speaking fast but concrete and in sentence will get you the golden medal. Also, speaking slow but concrete and in sentence will get you the golden medal (even though it will irritate the examiner). In a few words, knowledge will allow you everything. One way or another. 
There's no real secret here. Just practice how you learned at written - classic exams. You'll apply stuff here, but in a verbal way.

C) Combined examination methods
In a few words, combined examination methods are a way of examination where the candidate is a written exam first, then an oral exam, or viceversa. It annoyed the hell out of me, but meh... I always thought one method of examination was sufficient. Anyway, study like you would for the written exam, since the oral exam has a small written component to it.

The next article will tell you about the diet to use during learning breaks and then the next one will be about the medication. I really hope I haven't missed anything important. But I look forward to reading your questions and constructive comments.



  1. Always good to hear from you, JD !

    Yes. It's all MCQs in modern countries now. Unfortunately, I caught the old system and it's really a pain... I suppose it depends on the situation of the country you're studying in and the institution that you're attending.

    On a personal note, I hate them. They can be really hard.

    Best of luck at your exam !

  2. Very nice bro .. I really appreciate your such work :) bro can you also write about preparing for mathematics exam? How to practice sums from textbooks? how to become accurate? I know that a person can never be perfect but what I mean is a little bit close to perfection in mathematics? your reply will result in a great help as I want to know how do I practice mathematics and get accurate and a perfect at that :)