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Exam preparation – A How To!

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By Amreen Pathan

The importance of preparation – a worldly perspective

One of my favourite Malcolm X quotes reads as follows: ‘The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.’

This quote is particularly pertinent to the topic of exam preparation which for students; particularly at GCSE and Higher Level education; sets in motion the wheels of their future.

Preparation is defined as the action or process of making something ready for use or service or of getting ready for some occasion, test or duty.

This can be on a smaller scale – plans for the day, week and month ahead; or on a larger scale – end of year exams, career milestones and yearly goals.

The point is that preparation is preparation regardless of its scope and it is preparation that is the difference between being reactive and proactive. This is because preparation will allow one to retain mastery over their emotions, levels of stress and subsequent actions whilst a lack of preparation will entail the absolute opposite: low self-esteem, panic, hopelessness and despair.

Preparation is not necessarily easy; it forces one to carve out time to plan, organise and critically think of practical solutions to ensure a successful outcome. But as my spouse constantly reminds me, choose you’re hard. Because failing is hard too and in the ironic utterance of Benjamin Franklin: ‘If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!’  

The importance of preparation – an Islamic perspective

Islam relentlessly advocates for preparation.

  • This could be on a daily scale. For example, Muslims are instructed to prepare for the five daily prayers by performing ablution.
  • This could also on a yearly scale. For example, Muslims are encouraged to mentally prepare for Ramadan by reciting the relevant prayer two months prior to the fasting month:

Allahumma barik la-na fi Rajab wa Sha’ban wa balligna Ramadan.

(Translation: Oh Allah, bless us in the months of Rajab and Sha’ban and allow us to reach Ramadan).

  • And this is also on the scale of the biggest examination a person will ever face: Muslims are taught that the wisest of men are those who prepare for death with good deeds (Sunan Ibn Majah).  

These are just some snippets of the kinds of preparation a Muslim must initiate and undertake to ensure success from an Islamic perspective.

Exam preparation tips for students

  1. Make a revision schedule that is realistic and manageable. Aim to do a few hours of revision every day with a combination of subjects to ward off boredom!
  2. Find an environment, which supplements your learning style. For some, this will be complete silence whilst others may require some background noise, be this a podcast or family chatter.
  3. Adapt and apply different revision strategies for different topics as well as different subjects. In English for example, my pupils might make knowledge organisers for books they have studied. In History, they will make chronological or thematic timelines or create mind-maps. When searching for effective revision strategies for my pupils, I have used YouTube as a valuable resource too with teachers and even pupils offering suggestions about what worked for them.
  4. Test yourself as constantly as possible using flash cards, quizzes and answering exam style questions.
  5. Look at past exam papers and have a go at marking them yourself. This will mean that not only are you confident with the exam layout but understand what the demands of the questions are as well as improving your ability to complete the paper within the time constraints.
  6. Take regular short breaks approximately every hour or so.
  7. Do something physical in the day whether this be talking a walk, partaking in a little vigorous yoga session or even just having a stretch! This will release positive endorphins as well as facilitate a more restful sleep.
  8. Ask for help. This is vital if you do not understand something or if you are, feeling stressed. Adults can help make your work more manageable for you by explaining harder concepts again, marking work for you as well as helping you to prioritise your learning.

Conclusion

You may argue that some of us are just more genetically predisposed towards being organised and preparation.  I am however, a firm believer in the notion that preparation is a habit and like all good (and bad!) habits, preparation can be learnt.  

What exam tips do you think are important for students of all ages and calibres to know? Please share your suggestions below!

#Exams #Preparation #Stress #Success #Revision

Tags: examinations; tips; revision; timetable; success; fail; Malcolm X; Benjamin Franklin; exercise; help; questions; YouTube; strategy

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