“It’s sunny?” asks the poor third-year who hasn’t been outside the library since early February. Yes, it’s a cruel trick of the Almighty to cast a tempting glow across blank A4 pads at this time of year. All you might want to do is jump into the Corrib in your bikini (disclaimer: this is not advisable) but there are those dratted exams to sit.
Never mind the sunshine. You haven’t had a proper night sleep since Take That were in short pants, you’ve ingested so much caffeine that toddlers are frightened of your bloodshot eyes and jabbering speech. Oh, and you’ve alienated your friends and a large portion of your family because of your endless tirades on failing. You have exam stress.
Examius stressius does not just hit those poor souls afflicted with those two-hour torture sessions referred to as exams. It’s much more insidious. Poor humanities students, despite their popular perception as paragons of bohemian laziness, also suffer from stress. At the end of semester two, assignments are piling up. Essays discussing structural Marxist analogies with special reference to feminist and postcolonial undercurrents in the Thomas the Tank Engine series lead to several brain explosions per year in the James Hardiman.
So how do you overcome this dreaded disease? Well, as the front of the Hitch- hiker’s Guide to Galaxy said: Don’t Panic. Panicking never achieves anything. Take a deep breath and make a short list of things to do.
A word of warning though- resist the temptation to write the list in colour-coded 19th century German script, or else it just becomes another method of procrastination.
Speaking of procrastination, we live in a golden age of dallying. Step forward offender number one; the internet. Just checking Facebook, then just checking Twitter, then just watching that cute video of sloths having a bath, soon becomes an hour spent not studying. Unless you really need the internet for study – checking up what the latest academic opinion onThomas is for example – don’t log in. And if you can manage without a laptop – using printed notes or those book thingies is a way around it – leave it alone. There’s nothing worse than that sinking feeling when you realise it’s four o’clock already and although you now know everything about three-toed sloth, it’s not coming up in your exam.
Is studying better at home or in college? Well, that’s a matter of personal opinion. Some people find it impossible to concentrate when boxed in with strangers at the library; others find the allure of the kettle, TV and chatty housemates at home too tempting. Personally, I’ve always liked the sense that everyone is in it together in the library. Poor mites.
Wherever you go, resist the urge to feather your nest. You won’t study better if you lift every book remotely connected to your topic from the library shelves and put it on your desk. You won’t study better if you rearrange the furniture in your room. Let’s face it, you don’t give a damn about cleanliness the rest of the year, so why start at exam-time?
So you’ve beaten procrastination. Now what? When you’ve actually started studying, you can be tempted to take it to extremes. Experts recommend a break every 40 minutes at the maximum. A little break to get some tea, or stretch your legs, gives your overworked noggin a badly-needed break from the books. When you resume studying, you’ll find yourself fresher and better able to tackle those nasty chemical equations.
All-night cramming sessions rarely work, especially the night before an exam.You’ll just fall asleep drooling on the paper in the morning. The examiner will harbour suspicions about the flecks of spittle on your answer book and probably fail you just for being so disgusting.
Red Bull and other energy drinks are the devil, as anyone who ever encountered Jagerbombs will tell you. Yet there are those who swear by them at exam-time. Each to their own, but every high has a low. Just saying.
As for coffee, too much will turn you into an insomniac and lack of sleep is the worst thing can happen to anyone in the run-up to exams. Some people lose all appetite when stressed – others (yours truly) find that using all that extra brainpower makes them extraordinarily hungry. For both, the advice is the same: regular meals, good breakfast, plenty of fruit, veg and water. Fish is great for smarts, so get some yummy salmon into you. Exercise is also key and we’re lucky that in nui Galway we have some lovely walks around campus to help you work out body as well as mind. Exam stress can be unavoidable, but never fear. You’ll get through it, and although I probably shouldn’t say this in a college paper: there’s always the repeats.