Wow, how the semester has flown by in lockdown. I thought I’d do a little uni-life update with about 3ish weeks left of second year!
Approaching the end of the uni year and can be a mix of excitement to be finished, thrilled to hang out with friend at the beach all day and many more things. But before we get to that point, unfortunately we have exams. As I’m sure you’re all aware, the exam period seems to feel like one of the most stressful times. What feels like endless studying, going over the same thing 100 times and still not understanding whats going on could possibly be the most frustrating feeling known to exist, yet at some point everyone will find themselves in that boat.
I quickly wanted to touch on a few things regarding exams. Yes, getting an A+ might be a great moral boost and look good on paper, but grades are NOT end all be all, I promise. I remember thinking in first year that if I didn’t get a certain grade my life was going to end, I wasn’t going to get into the specialisation I wanted, so I wasn’t going to get a job that I liked, and you can see how I spiralled out of control. I’m here to stop that from happening to you. With the added stresses of lockdown, please do not put getting good grades in front of your mental health, it is simply not worth it!
With that aside, I want to touch on something that seems to get reinforced more and more the further into your engineering degree you get. You go to uni to get the technical skills, learn to how design that bridge, how to code (whatever spec you pick), but having A+ grades on your transcript doesn’t make you the best engineer, sure it might make you one of the smartest, but not necessarily the overall best. This is because of how important your ‘soft skills’ are. Now maybe you chose to study engineering cause you find solving math equations easier than dealing with people, so I hate to break it to you but engineering is a team sport and dealing with people will be a daily occurrence no matter what specialisation you pick. Working on your communication skills, how you deal with conflict, how to work in a team effectively and many more things are all non technical things that you will learn through your degree that are a necessity to take into the workforce. I would even go as far to say that its your soft skills are what separate people from being a good engineer to a great engineer. So if the idea of that works in your favour, lucky you, but if not, do not fret, you have plenty of time to learn how to improve your ‘soft skills’, and remember the best way to learn if through making mistakes!
Now back to exams, here are a few tips that I’ve learnt to help manage my stress during the exam period:
- Start early. You may have just rolled your eyes at me then, yes yes, I know its obvious, but arguably the most beneficial tip I have. There a is always a lot of content to cover, so the earlier you start, the more time you have to learn and understand these different concepts, also because sometimes life happens and plans change so if this occurs, it gives you more wiggle room, without leaving you super stressed out.
- Have a rough plan. Looking big picture, at all the content you have to cover before your exam is 2 weeks can be extremely daunting. So break it down into manageable bite sized pieces. Today and tomorrow I’m going to focus on understanding topic X and then Wednesday, topic Y…. you get my point, break it down, it’s much more motivating when the workload doesn’t seem like an impossible mountain to climb.
- Take. A. Break. Locking yourself in a room for 8 hours and forcing yourself to study is probably the least beneficial way to study (well in my opinion at least). Interestingly some studies actually say we can’t concentrate for more than 90 minutes before needing a break, well more like 45 minutes for me, but you get the gist. Set a timer for an hour, smash through that set of questions and then go take a well deserved (small) break, then repeat. Boring, yes I know, but it works, keeping your brain fresh is the best way to keep on top of studying.
- Study effectively. Everyone learns differently, so find what works for you. For all those visual learners out there, I feel you. Someone could repeat something 100 times to me but until I see in either on paper or in image form its in one ear and out the other. So I would definitely recommend taking time to work out what kind of learner you are because that allows you to study to your strengths. (link for learning style quizzes: http://www.educationplanner.org/students/self-assessments/learning-styles-quiz.shtml)
Well, good luck to everyone for exams, remember it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t go perfectly! Take breaks, study with friends and try new things!!
ps. feel free to reach out if you have a question, or even just want to chat to someone about your options, or anything. @izzycattermole on instagram and facebook :))