Don’t try to be Harrison Ford and other exam tips

In order to stay in the spirit of things, I would like to begin with a confession: this article was written at the last minute. I lollygagged. I procrastinated. I threw it together at the eleventh hour. I cobbled it into existence within thirty minutes of my deadline. If this article was a hat and I was Indiana Jones, I would have pulled it out from beneath a grating stone trapdoor in the very nick of time.

Unfortunately, I cannot pull off this absolute recklessness with the flair and panache of Harrison Ford. Despite what you may tell yourself, neither can you. It’s just not possible to reach that tier of lovable rogue status. I have seen many try, and all of them – myself included – have ended up sweating profusely. It’s not a good look, so trust me on this one and save yourself the trouble.

Readers of Maynooth, the May exam season is a stressful time, sure, but you have what it takes to shoot first. Keep on reading for five tips to hit your exams without a hitch.

1) Attend your final lectures. You may have started this year out with the best of intentions when it comes to going to lectures, but as every student knows, these plans don’t always exactly come full circle. For most of us lowly humans, a successive series of golden weeks is like a unicorn: beautiful in theory, improbable in real life. That said, no matter how sub-par your attendance has been this semester, it always pays to go to the last lecture of a professor’s module. This is where all the useful stuff shows up: broad summaries, exam tips, hints about paper layouts, the works. Pull yourself out of bed for one last 9am. It’ll be worth your while.

2) Attend lecturer office hours. This is one that I cannot stress enough. During the aforementioned final lectures, many department members will make a point of announcing the times that they’ll be around on a weekly basis to answer questions, settle concerns, and offer advice on final assignments. Take advantage of these contact hours; even if you have to make up an excuse to walk into your lecturer’s office and chat for five minutes, they’re more likely to remember your face and your apparent dedication to your subject. If things should go awry further down the line, this can be invaluable.

3) Stockpile notes. Remember all of those missed lectures I mentioned in point one? Now’s the time to amass as much material from them as you can, especially if you know they’ll be relevant to your exam. Ask friends to swap notes with you. Check out PDFs your lecturers have uploaded to Moodle. The more you read now, the more likely some of the information you take in is likely to stick when D-Day rolls around. Start hoarding notes. Be a note-dragon.

4) Establish a study schedule. Okay, now I just sound like a Junior Cert SPHE teacher, but do hear me out – it’s been statistically proven that a rigid work timetable increases productivity to a crazy extent. You’re a less likely to fall into a cycle of “I’ll start studying in ten minutes” if you’ve got a set block of time dedicated to it. This also alleviates the crushing guilt of “I should be studying right now” syndrome; it’s kind of hard to feel bad about enjoying free time that you specifically scheduled to be free. Speaking of which…

5) Take a break. No, this doesn’t mean “put the book down and pick it up forty-eight hours later”. It doesn’t mean “leave all your stuff in the crowded library for six hours when people need the table space”, either. Don’t be that person. No one likes that person. However, you deserve to take it easy from time to time, and the term “work hard, play hard” exists for a reason. Given yourself the occasional night off. Take that nap. Order that pizza. You can’t destroy your exams if you feel like they’re destroying you. Get the work done, but be kind to yourself.

So there you have it. Five tried and tested pointers for how to set yourself up for this semester’s exams without feeling like you’re struggling through an academic version of Temple Run. It’s probably worth noting that it is now just under four minutes to my deadline for turning in this article. You can bet Harrison Ford would still be writing for another three minutes, and his article would be significantly better than this one. Oh, Harrison. We can only marvel.