The Ups and Downs in Preparing for Exams

[/] Done for my course in College Writing in TESL/TOEFL, with the mechanics of: the thesis statement, topic sentences and concluding sentence.

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The Ups and Downs in Preparing for Exams

          I could still recall the culture shock I had when I started Form 4. It was a time of decision where my school limited the choice to only Accounts or Science stream to major in. There I was thinking the Science stream was the path I needed to follow on, having the general Science dissected into Chemistry, Physics and Biology. The detailed scientific terms, formulas and equations were too much to handle at times. Don’t even get me started on Additional Mathematics – never once a class passed by without a confused, lost expression on my face. Then, there came the assessments. Just when I thought answering the Science paper in PMR was already torturous; it has become a laughing matter now that I had three papers of different branches of sciences to answer in SPM. Like most of my classmates in Form 4, I received my test paper scribbled in red ink, with a huge “D-”  on the front page of my Physics midterms paper. At that point, I told myself that I couldn’t have these kind of low grades proudly displayed on my future SPM results slip and indeed that I need to come up with a studying strategy. Studying for tests has been an experience of self-discovery through a series of past mistakes.

          At first, I did not pay full attention in class because I thought I could do the revision later. I remembered in most of my classes, the teacher made us read directly from the textbook which didn’t interest me. The textbook was filled with heavy facts, dull-looking pages which didn’t stimulate my brain. As a result, I felt sleepy and ended up dozing off on my textbook. I felt it was okay to do that as I already had all the references needed, and I can skim through it later. Soon, later became never because I kept delaying the revision to another week. In the end, the textbook was left untouched until the exam period came.

          Then, I ended up studying in the last minute although things didn’t quite go according to plan. At midnight before the exam, I started grabbing the water heater to make myself some instant noodles and coffee. I need these to keep me alert and wide awake during my study session. Without realising, the whole process – taking the packets of instant noodles from the locker, waiting for the water to boil, involved in a sudden conversation with dorm mates – took about two hours. When the clock struck 2AM, only then I had my textbook in front of me. Nevertheless, the distraction didn’t stop there. My highlighter was in my hand but my mind kept drifting off, like ‘Have I ironed my clothes?’, ‘Do I need to stock up on my food supply?’ and even something off-topic, ‘What is my crush doing right now?.’ In the end, all my time was wasted daydreaming on useless things instead of focusing on what I intended to do. When sleepiness overtook my motivation to study, I couldn’t finish what I started.

          As I mature, I learned that different people have different learning styles that they are personally comfortable with. Learning styles refers to the preferred way that someone acquire, process and retain information – the way someone learn best. It can be divided into three: visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. After answering a questionnaire on what learner I am, I found out that I am a visual learner. That explains why long passages in textbooks didn’t interest me, for that I learn best by seeing things. If only the texts had the main points highlighted in different colours, that way will be easier for me to process the information. Apart from that, I created visual images to connect information to acronyms and acrostics in my study sheets. Before I go to bed, it has become a habit for me to close my eyes and visualise, the points that I revised from my notes in the earlier hour.

Practicing the learning style for visual learners, I can evaluate that eventually my results improved. In my SPM examination, I successfully achieved 7 A’s 2 B’s. I never expected to have my name being announced on stage as one of those students, standing in line with the others who received excellent results. Indeed, it is true that one has to learn how to learn, before he learns.

Nurain Shahira, Malaysia

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