Exams are continually upon us! After each new course waits patiently a wonderful paper to test our knowledge at the end, however for my past two courses I have had the pleasure of having a *take home* exam to complete as opposed to papers done in an exam hall. Back home the system is pretty much that all exams are bunged together at the end of the year which brings back fond memories of stressful summers and hating my May birthday right in the middle of it all. So to adjust to continual small exams here in Stockholm was one thing, however this new deal of take home exams?! It definitely blew me away… to be given up to a week to write a 2000 word essay and to be able to have the freedom to do it anywhere and any time?! I felt like it was too good to be true. No longer is there the tense build up leading up to my journey to the exam hall, where I have to sit cold and silent in the same spot, hyper-sensitive to the sounds of the same person next to me constantly sniffling, watching the minutes go by on the clock, wondering if in fact all the questions in the paper are designed to catch me out so I fail and fall into an endless vortex of doom and sadness…
But no! Now I can sit in my PJs all day long (or rather, week!) with candles all around me, tea and snacks and music, and actually feel some, at long last, joy writing my exam! Of course, the take home exams are primarily designed for the essay based exams – why we can do them at home? I’m not sure why exactly, I didn’t want to ask in case of looking suspect but I guess it’s so we have time to read through material and produce a good piece of work – how kind. (Or if anyone knows the real reason, do let me know).
However, whilst I painted a blissful photo of a happy student writing away surrounded by home comforts, often the reality is one of just simply having too much time to do the essay and as a result… procrastinating hard! As someone who has a lot of experience in the field but has controlled it enough to have passed through this far in my time in education I would like to present to you some tips for staying motivated with a home exam…!
- Use the freedom to choose your environment! For me, essay creativity struggles in libraries and exam hall type places, I like to be relaxed and most importantly – warm! So for me my cosy bedroom with the awesome view of the forest outside is cool. Sit in a park! Sit in your kitchen! Sit everywhere until you work out where feels right – aka doing a Goldilocks.
- Take the opportunity to find pleasure in the task! Having so much time gives you the chance to rediscover enjoying writing and learning in your own pace. Be leisurely, spend one day just reading a few articles, spend the other day just thinking over what you read…etc. Remove the stress and pressure to get it done and find genuine interest in the topic by deliberately being slow!
- Work only for 5 minutes! This helped me when I was a dangerous procrastinator, basically allow yourself only 5 minutes to work and that’s it, you can break for however long until you come back for another 5. Chances are when you allow yourself 5 solid minutes totally engrossed, you end up wanting to go on longer! It’s basically a tease for relaxing your mind into telling it you can lay down and eat snacks in not too long.
- Be yourself! So I’m not preaching self-love and appreciation here (although that is important too) but one trap I find falling into that makes writing so much harder is when you write with in mind how you *think* you should be sounding or formulating your answer. Many times an essay is asking you to critically discuss or analyse, which is code for write whatever you want as long as you can back it up! So let your fingers loose to tap out whatever thoughts immediately come to mind and write what you really think, then go back and find the material that works with your ideas! And if there isn’t any material that supports, then maybe your point of view really is beyond the course content… in which case maybe it’s a thought for your diary!
And when all else fails, shut the laptop down, put everything away, lay on your chaise longue and:
- question why you’re struggling! Now this is getting deep, but losing sight of why you’re doing the things you’re doing can make it harder to obviously do. Sometimes tutors say that you can email them with questions during so if there’s a problem there, then ask for help! Or maybe you need to remind yourself why you’re in uni, maybe it’s a means to an end? Maybe you’re here for the experience? Either way restoring respect for the fact that exams and passing them are a means for achieving your future goals, or simply as a means for helping you continue to stay in university can help bring the motivation back! Ultimately you are doing this for you, so remember!
And finally, there is no need to resist procrastinating! Work with it, sometimes ideas spark in those critical moments of pure bliss just doing nothing! Plus sometimes it’s a way of knowing that it’s not time to do it yet and that maybe saving it for later on it the day would be better… who knows, it’s all totally individual ultimately.
So I hope I’ve given you some useful ideas and happy future exam writing!