Exams are stressful. There is no getting away from that fact and even though you have been revising and preparing for them the fear of the unknown still creeps in. Being too stressed though can affect your memory and performance so the real challenge is how you can calm those nerves to get through the exam and pass with flying colours. With the final Vet Physio exams looming I have put together some helpful tips on how I managed to survive the exam and live to tell the tale! Today we will be looking at how to cope in the run-up to your exam. Next week I have a post focusing on what to do on the exam day itself.
Out of all the exams I have taken over my years in education I find practical exams the most daunting. You not only need to perform the tasks you are given safely and competently for yourself, the dog, and the handler but also you have to verbalise why you are doing these tasks. For me this is the most difficult part. It is always so much easier to write these things out on paper compared to explaining your reasoning out load.
Before starting on the Vet Physio course I had sat practical exams before. All Student Vet Nurses have to undergo a series of practical exams known as OSCEs on different scenarios such as x-rays, lab work, bandaging, surgery and, anaesthesia before they can qualify. So at least I had some experience of these exams before learning Vet Physio however I don’t think any number of practicals could have truly prepared me for the final Vet Physio Exams. Through experience I have learnt a variety of techniques to use on the run up to the exam and on the exam day itself to stay cool, calm, and collected.
Break down the exam.
The easiest way I found to revisie for my finals was to break down the exam into steps. This way I could focus my revision on different steps and as the exam drew nearer I could start combining all of there steps so that I was ready for the big exam. Remember you already know everything and you have practiced all these steps many times before so don’t let the panic of being in an exam prevent you from doing your best.
Know your revising style.
Use revision styles that are efficient and effective for you. Unfortunately, we are not all blessed with a photographic memory but after GCSE’s, A-Level’s, and 2 years of exams at Uni hopefully you know what works for you. For me this was sitting down and talking through all the parts I was going to say in the exam either to a friend or to myself. I also used colours to section my notes. This may work for you but you may also find that listening to a voice recording works or writing things down. Everyone is different and just because one way works for your friend does not mean it will for you so work the way which suits you best.
Take regular study breaks.
Keeping your study time in bite-sized chunks helps you to focus on your subject and makes remembering your revision notes easier. No one wants square eyes! You could also give yourself a little reward for your hard work. Remember you are not a machine.
Look after yourself.
It is important to make sure that you eat well, get plenty of sleep, and exercise during your revisions time. All students are prone to living off sweets, adrenaline, and caffeine during the exam period (myself included) but all this does is increase your anxiety and stress levels. You need to make sure you have regular meals which are healthy and balanced. Stay away from the sugar if your blood sugar levels are balances you will have fewer mood swings, reduced stress, and a happier body. Keep to a regular sleep schedule and make sure you get some exercise. Even 10 minutes a day could help to boost your mood and productivity. Find what works well for you. I prefer yoga which has many benefits for your body but also helps with calming and focusing the mind. Just make sure you take a break and get some blood pumping.
Mindfulness can help to improve mental health during exam season. Deep breathing, meditation, or spending a few minutes being present can help you to focus on what’s important in the here and now rather than worrying about the future. Try using an app or search YouTube to find some good advice and videos which work for you.
Ok so you may think this is a bit crazy but there is some method behind my madness. Rosemary has been shown to improve memory. Studies on students working in a room that contained the aroma of rosemary essential oil perform 5-7% better in memory tests. Another benefit of rosemary is that it can help you to relax. Other essential oils that may help you to relax are lavender, lemon, peppermint and frankincense. To support local businesses I like to get my lavender essential oil from Cotswolds Lavender (click to read my post on visiting their farm) but you can also pick up essential oils from Boots, Holland and Barrett or maybe your local health food shop. You can buy pre-mixed aromatherapy rollerballs to help with relaxation such as Tisserand, or my personal favourite which is Relaxation by Neals Yard Remedies. The benefit of these little rollerballs is that you can pop them in your bag and easily apply whenever you start to feel a bit anxious whilst you’re in the holding room prior to your exam.
Anyone can suffer from anxiety and if you are feeling anxious the closer you get to your exam then Bach’s rescue remedy may be enough to help ease the tension and make you feel more relaxed and able to focus.
Speak to someone.
Finally, it can help if you talk to someone about your anxiety. Whether it is a friend, parent, partner, sibling, or teacher we have all been through these experiences and everyone is here to support you. We all want you to do well and no one wants you to fail. Also if you find that you get anxious waiting in holding rooms speak to a teacher as they may be able to change the exam order to help you get through the exams with less stress. Remember if you don’t ask no one will know and nothing can be done to change this.
Next week as we get closer to the exams I will look at helping you to survive the stress of the exam day itself. In the meantime stay calm and keep revising.