The exam season can be difficult and anxiety-inducing. I’d like to share my experiences of what has helped me, hoping they may help my fellow SOASians.
1. Keep a routine to help your body feel relaxed and nourished
Keep a good routine. Daily routine shapes the rhythms of my life and makes me feel more energetic and efficient at a particular time of the day. Sleeping too late is not an excellent choice and will only make me more tired even if I try to get up later the following day.
Eat healthily. Keeping a brain-boosting diet makes my brain works more efficiently and happily. For example, our brain loves water for better chemical balance and a high protein diet for producing neurotransmitters. Eat snacks like berries, nuts, seeds, etc.
Do some exercise. Exercise always makes me feel happier naturally, not only because it brings me faster blood flow, a better daytime appetite, and better evening sleep, but also as a perfect refresh after hours of study. Even a walk can quickly clear your head and give you new insights.
2. Look after your mental health to keep calm
Talk to close friends or family members. I will casually talk with my friends or family members when feeling stressed or less efficient, as they are trustworthy, know my strengths, and sometimes offer insightful suggestions.
Practice mindfulness exercises. It’s a very effective way to help me manage stress, figure out the real challenges, and make me more concentrated on the tasks.
3. Plan out your time
Plan a longer time for reviewing your essays and revision notes. Planning is the essential beginning of getting the exam tasks done. A longer review time means a higher potential of reaching the goals on time.
Plan out social activities. Socialising helps you relax but try and plan it so it comes at much-needed study breaks. Make the breaks shorter but more regular. This can give you some extra time to finish all the essays as early as possible so that the deadlines will not come all at once.
4. What to do before the exam
Review the key points again. I’ll familiarise myself with the knowledge again by reviewing the modules, checking the notes, and trying to draw a knowledge map to summarise the main points so that it is easier to remember.
Check the past year’s exam papers on My SOAS System. Previous exam papers offer a perfect clue of what to prepare for the exam. Practice mock tests, and then have an immediate review of the performance, analysing what further actions you need to take.
Take regular small walks. My brain will work out how to combine the knowledge during short walks. When you relax it’s easier process what you have learnt and make connections in your head.
Listening vs reading. I will sometimes use the screen reading function if tired of reading, and it works even when my eyes feel reluctant to read anymore.
5. What to do during the exam
Read the exam papers carefully. I first check the marks of each question, keywords that need to be included in my answer, and allocate the time I should spend on each part – all before I start writing.
Structure the answer. Keeping a good structure makes it easier for professors to quickly understand my general idea and critical points, giving me a better chance of higher scores.
Be more critical and balance your argument. As an international student, I will keep reminding myself to read the questions critically, write with more balanced arguments, and make sure I am expressing my ideas as clearly as possible.
I hope this blog helps relieve your pressure, and I wish everyone the best of luck during the exam season!
Hailun Zhang is a SOAS Digital Ambassador currently studying MA International Studies and Diplomacy.