In the Southern hemisphere, we are coming to the end of the school year, which invariably means EXAMS! The very word is enough to fill some students with dread. As you come up to exam time, how many times have you been told to just “get down and study!”, yet it’s still not happening? How many times do you watch yourself going to find some food, checking what others are saying about you in Facebook, saying yes to go out with people you don’t like, all just to get away from that desk, that blank piece of paper, that open book full of words, words, words? Exams are closely linked to our fear of failing. Yet tension and stress only make things worse.
Here are 3 tips on how to be more focused, concentrated and clear-headed during exams:
1. As you approach the exams, relax. Learn as much as you can, but when you get to the exams, let go. What you know, you know. What you don’t know, you don’t know. You cannot know before the exam which questions will be asked, so don’t beat yourself up about not learning what you should have learned. Hindsight is good at making us feel miserable. So avoid it by only looking forward at the next exam (or the holidays, if it is your last one!).
2. Use a meditation to calm yourself just before you enter, or while sitting at your place, waiting for it to start. Breathe deeply and concentrate on your breath. Imagine you are fully relaxed – each muscle of your body from your head down to your toes. If you have never meditated before, check out this very good explanation of how to do a “breathing meditation”. If you prefer to have a guided meditation (where someone is speaking over peaceful music and you follow what they are saying), you can find them in YouTube. They can also be purchased from various online stores. One person I find very nice to listen to is Scott Gaul, who has a collection of various meditations at Quiet Mind Cafe.
3. Be fully in the moment. There is no danger during the exam, only fear. And F.E.A.R, as we know, is merely False Expectations Appearing Real. Don’t project into the future what may or may not happen, just be focused on what is happening now, the answer to the question you are working on at that moment. By separating danger from fear (danger is real, fear is perceived), you can easily convince yourself that you are not in danger of dying at any point during the exam (and if you are, please let the teachers know!). As long as you are not in danger, there is no need to let fear cloud your mind.