Notes from A Keen Exam Taker

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I can’t believe how the brain is that wired. One minute I was thinking of what sensible thing to do next so as not to waste what is left of my summer vacation, and the next minute I was feeling irritated by my thoughts on exams.

I should say that what I really I wasn’t completely annoyed by what I was thinking, as a matter of fact I even found myself half-smiling. You see, I was already feeling my first-day jitters (I still get up to now, and I’m already turning 19). To be exact, I have less than a week before I leave for Manila, before I face my classmates, and get my poker face ready for the terrifying professors. But there’s something else I am looking forward to: exams!

Thanks to these exams, I got to know myself better. I learned that I’m a heavy-sleeper, and that when desperate, one can wake me up by use of water or by tickling my earlobes. Sometimes chocolates work as my all-nighter snack. And because I drink coffee for pleasure, caffeine in coffee no longer works as some drink to keep me up all night. Also, I have learned that Sting energy drink tastes better than Cobra energy drink.

Days before the exam

Before anything else, I feel like I must give you a background of what exams are like in our school. Basically, only two months are allotted for lecture, and the rest of the semester is for the application of these theories. Yes, only two months to finish the recommended references (and if one is nerdy enough, the extra and supplemental books). This also means that major exams are given every other week. There really is not much time to prepare.

And because my batch mates are all bookish, I feel like I too have to blend in. You see, I am not the diligent person that the people who do not know me think I am. Back in high school, I was feeling left behind because my classmates have read chapters on Thermodynamics and what-not, while I struggle with who Gibbs was. They would borrow books from the library or the Lab, while I lack photocopies of required readings. I don’t blame them. Each man to his own, right? I was never an outlier, and up to this day I am still curious of how I ended up as part of the honor roll.

In college, I have trained myself to sit still and read. One thing’s for sure: it’s no walk in the park. It’s actually the longest and so far, the hardest training. I resorted to getting a more permanent place in the study hall. However, some of the other louder students have picked more permanent seats near the one I’ve picked. And as a bonus, I stock my most favorite snacks, and some energy drinks for the when I need all-nighters. Needless to say, I have never spent an all-nighter studying. While others buy their alarm clocks and barely touch their beds, I make do with two mobile phones that doubly serve as my alarm clocks. (For this, I am most sorry for my roommates because they have to deal with this heavy sleeper). On better days, I wake up to my alarm. On usual days, I still wake up to alarms, but only to turn them off.

Days before the exam are when I’ll be hearing various batch mates complaining how they can’t get themselves to open their books. Some of these people are telling the truth, while others deny they study for various reasons. Yes, these intellectuals do not wish to be branded as nerds. And no, these intellectuals do not wish people to expect high scores from them. Some of the more responsible kids would find themselves reading transes (transcribes), highlighting pages of their books, and even rewriting their already legible notes. And some of these responsible students will also be leaving behind their tasks, and leave it to other students because they want to concentrate on their studying. Meanwhile, the others would be photocopying notes of the more responsible kids. Others still will be denying albeit their eye bags ratting them out. And what do the cooler kids do? Nothing. They chill out in the nearest mall (in our case, just right outside the university campus), being all hedonistic towards the pending doom that is the night before the exams. Believe it or not, some of these cooler kids do make it alive from the peril.

And oh, the college library is not that at least 40% dense. There will always be 2% visiting the university library. People still go online on social networks.

The Night Before the Exam

One day before the exam, the college library is 100% full, some 80% by students who are to take the exam the next day. Some 5 % find solace in the university library, while another 5% are in coffee shops eating slices of cheesecakes while waiting for study partners.

The night before exams is the most important night for all students in my college, especially those hanging by the thread. This is when one would see people going home early from school, grunting on how lousy the traffic is. All schedules are cleared to burn the midnight oil.

This is the time when scanners become handy, but second only to the service of the e-mail. Yes, soft copies of lectures are sent through e-mails, with students thinking that most questions would be taken from the lectures when most of us were half-asleep. The only reason students go online on social networks is that they want to check out who else are not studying (like themselves), or to follow up on that trans that has yet to be sent to their e-mails.

At more or less six in the evening, these kids are at home, taking a bath, or just getting home from the mall after buying groceries. A little after six, some are taking power naps, readying themselves for the stressful and draining night. Group studies aren’t that popular among the kids in my school, except of course to those who live in the same building.

On this holy night, I begin hating myself on so many grounds, but mainly because I have once again succumbed to the seduction of the art of procrastination. I never learn. And then I begin ranting on about how I should take up a course on time management because I seem to have so much to read in so little time. The thing is I only get to review when I get to finish studying. If my memory serves me right, I have never been able to do this. Although, I am one of those who see to it that they finish reading all the lessons covered for the exams. I bid my bed farewell for the night, but then somehow end up on it some three hours later. I do not know how it happens but I feel so sleepy when facing my book, or when feeling pressured to finish reading the lectures. And so I set my alarm to wake up at 12 in the morning, and bring my book with me up to my room, thinking to read it when I don’t feel like sleeping. But I only do this when already confident with what I’ve studied. Most of the times, reading works faster than any sleeping pill. (Take my word for it, especially on books that MUST be read!)

I am betting that all the fun and the energy are drained out from these exam-takers. No sleep, all work is no fun. Drowse is the worst enemy one could think of when stuck in such situations. (Believe me, I’ve been there.) Lucky are those who have friends or family members who almost stay up with them through the night should there be a need to wake them up.

The Dreaded Exam Day

If lucky, I am able to wake up early enough read my notes. These are the most vital review materials I have that I read them first and last. Bracing for what might come in the morning, I see to it that I wake up at five in the morning to do some last minute reviews and reads. At a little before seven I head for school, looking forward to what could be the one of the most anticipated experiences of my life – staring at how wasted my classmates could get.

First sign that I got the exam date right is when I bump into students on their way to 7-Eleven. Ahhh, first rule: DO NOT MISS BREAKFAST, you’ll need all the energy. Plus, you’ll need something to cover that energy drink-like mouth odor. I greet them luck, smiling.

Second sign is the view of students in the corridor, waiting for the student lounge to open, because unlike most of the other students they wish to review in the peace and quiet. Also, the students in this crowd are those who have a long way to go in finishing the exam coverage. The careless highlighting gives them away, plus they tend to ask obvious questions. Any student could be part of this crowd.

Sometimes, I would gladly join my chums in their group reviews, hoping to learn more from my friends who I hope have read more than I did. But the thing I hate most about the previous statement I’ve written is that some people aren’t helpful. Some will claim that they have not studied enough, yet they shout off the answer once a question is raised. Some act like know-it-alls, but I can’t blame them because they need the confidence boost. Others still tend to enumerate all kinds of excuses on why they weren’t able to study: “My alarm didn’t go off” or “I hate my memory, it’s already too full. Too much is already going on in there” or even “I woke up late”. Sometimes, I don’t care. Most of the times, I have no other options but to care because I am in the same position, but am a notch higher.  So far, I haven’t heard of anyone telling me they have the dates mixed up. That’s inexcusable because we have the syllabus which more often than not also serves as our planners.

Post-Exam

I think that it’s all thanks to the culture of teasing that the kids in the batch do not wish to finish first during some examinations. You see, it all depends on the situation. Except when there are exams or long quizzes in the succeeding subjects, I’ve observed that students tend to take their time in finishing their exams, reviewing, and rereviewing. This is until someone else submits his or her paper first, especially when this certain person is a friend. I’ve observed that these people only leave the exam room if and when another has left, and discuss the questions (and most of the times, the answers) the moment they get out.

Outside the exam room, people are opening their notes or their books, checking their answers, somehow estimating how they fared during the exam. Others’ estimate rely on the answers of friends. The bolder ones wish not to discuss their answers and instead grab snacks, as if all their brain-food has been consumed.

Life’s normal once again.

P.S.

You might think me the one girl you wish your kids won’t be like when they go to college. I’m not a bad influence. As a matter of fact, I have successfully established my study habits, but my new challenge is ignoring distractions. I used to be an outlier but only in this one particular subject I really really love – Mathematics! Somehow, I have lost my touch in Maths, but only because I already lack exposure. I hate Science because it requires a lot of memory works. Also, I do not fail my exams, or retake exams, until… Never mind. I am in no way a screwed-up student. But I believe that this is 70% God’s help through my prayers. I have already admitted to myself that exams are a vital part of any student’s life, and that everyone should experience the adrenaline rush that comes with these.

May 25, 2012

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