Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Advice for Exams

Some of my friends think I'm some kind of genius; others think I'm just a show-off. Just because I don't believe in giving the sky-is-falling-on-my-head look and burying my face in a thick pile of well-marked handouts 5 minutes before the exam. Just because I only bring along the necessities (only a pen, and sometimes a calculator).

Or maybe it's that hint of a G.W. Bush smirk I have as I observe others with their stressed faces buried in the handouts.

It's not like I'm ready to ace the exam, telling the lecturers to "bring it on!" but it's just that I don't see the point in trying to cram something into my thick skull moments before the exam. Nor does looking all stressed out help one single bit.

Being a mild hedonist, I don't believe in exerting myself more than I need to, or when the marginal return (expected exam score) falls below the marginal cost (effort spent in studying). Thinking back, I don't think it was just economic theory that influenced my study strategy...

Back in secondary 1, my History said something like this to us:
"What's the point of studying all night the night before the exam, and when the exam starts, you're too exhausted to think straight?"

Wise words, which resonated with what grandpa used to repeat:
"Adequate sleep is very important!"

He also used to say "stand/sit straight! don't hunch!" but that may be irrelevant to this post.

But sleep is certainly important. My usual study strategy is roughly as follows:
(1) find a comfortable place to study (library chair, living room sofa, bed, etc);
(2) organise the material in front of me;
(3) close eyes to expel every bit of tiredness from my mind (sleep);
(4) wake up, wipe off drool (if any);
(6) repeat step 3 if any trace of tiredness is detected, and so on.

This strategy maximizes speed and retention and minimizes pain. Thanks grandpa.

My dad had his contributions too, related to me by grandpa:
"I used to ask your father to study and review his schoolwork, but he'd tell me that he's already listened to his teacher in class and learnt what needs to be learnt, so there's no need to study. Then he'd go play ping-pong."

Luv' ya dad, but why didn't you tell it to me yourself?

Like all wise dads, he had a good point - go play ping-pong. Wise philosophy, which he probably adopted from the ancients. Mens sana in corpore sano, Latin for "a healthy mind in a healthy body". So after a bit of mental work, I'm usually off to the basketball courts to release some pressure on the other hard-core cagers.

Exams aren't that bad after all.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

very good advice on exam ... I never cram the night before the exam and always tried to get enough sleep. I don't study on my bed though, it makes me sleepy.

10:32 AM  
Blogger calm one said...

I get sleepy anywhere I study, so may as well pick someplace comfy =)

9:31 AM  

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