Study woes cured!

Written by Jackie Bischof
12 October 2007

It’s panic mode at Wits as exams loom and the jacarandas – despite our stares of dislike – are blooming away happily, oblivious to our pain and misery.

If you don’t understand your course material now or haven’t done your essays, you’re in for a whole lot of sh…unhappiness, and there’s probably nothing you can do except pray, or try to bribe your friends to help you out.

But Vuvuzela would never abandon those in need, and we were happy to accept bribes to dish out the best study and stress tips available. We’re proud to present our top five tips for exam time, especially for first years who are new in the game.

  1. Don’t panic. The famous words from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy are applicable in every situation – especially this one. If the words in your textbook start speaking to you at one in the morning, or your exam paper looks as if it was written in Greek (and you’re writing Sign Language), stay calm. Take a deep breath, don’t become homicidal, and realise: this too will pass. Just don’t start humming ohm in the exam hall – people won’t appreciate it, believe me.
  1. Don’t cheat. Like, duh. But you’d be surprised how many people panic (see above) and resort to cheating to try to pass an exam. Just don’t do it. Even if you think you’re being sneaky and super clever. Why not show that cleverness off in the exams? Lecturers will reward you for originality in your scripts, not for your ability to hide crib notes up your sleeve. And if you get caught, there’s no turning back. Even if you’ve been planning for weeks, Ocean’s Elevens style, you won’t get away with it. Lecturers are smarter than we are for a reason.
  1. Look after yourself. This is not something students generally do, with our booze-it-up attitude and unhealthy lifestyles. But it’s amazing how good health can give you a clear mind and help concentration during exams. This doesn’t mean that going to the gym is your latest excuse for not studying. It just means cut down on the partying, the drinking and the smoking. Don’t be a twit and overdose on energy drinks to try and stay awake. Eat healthily and get some sleep. Intern psychologist at Careers, Counselling and Development Unit (CCDU) Julian Jooste says that students need to look after themselves holistically – taking care of their minds, bodies and spirits. That means not going out for parties the weekend before a three-hour exam or getting sunburnt from tanning instead of studying.
  1. Don’t be a jerk. Just because you’re irritable and walking around like a UJ jock with a moerse hangover doesn’t mean you have to make everyone else feel like crap too. Stop whining and do something about it. If you feel like your res is not quiet enough to study in, go to the library. If you have an issue about course material, ask your lecturer. If you’re tired, have a nap, or go for a walk to try and clear your mind. Moaning about exams and how awful your lecturers are won’t help you. CCDU Career Educator Eileen Maleka also recommends staying away from “negative-speak and peers. Attitude is vital. Do positive talk, believe in yourself, and mingle with peers with positive attitudes.” Take the initiative and make your studying experience better – you are supposed to be learning and enriching yourself after all!
  1. Be disciplined. Take exams seriously. Those three hours when you’re writing mean a lot. If you value your future and your tertiary education seriously, you’ll take exams seriously. This means reading and writing throughout the year, making sure you get DP (due performance), studying conscientiously a few weeks before exams start, and looking after yourself. Unless you’re a genius who can ace an exam without looking at a book, we highly recommend putting away your party clothes for a few weeks before exams and getting down to work.

If you want more practical study tips then the ones we’ve given you here (if they exist!), head down to CCDU on West Campus. They have a ton of material on coping during exams, different study methods and stress management. You can speak to a career counsellor for advice or if you’re feeling really down and out, pay a nominal fee of R30 for a therapy session.

And lastly – try to find more reasonable ways of taking out your aggression, other than chopping off branches of jacaranda trees, or playing 50 Cent too loud out of your res window. Respect others during exams and who knows, we might all emerge in one piece after all. Just like one big happy Wits family!

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