You’ve reached the part of the year when you have to re-learn the stuff from the beginning of the year, which you had previously dismissed as future-you’s problem and something that might never be needed. And you’ve also reached the point where the reality of life over the next couple of months ahead has hit you, like a restaurant bill you knew was coming yet failed to fully predict in its totality when you had the menu- only on a bigger (and non-monetary) scale. You’ve reached exam season. CONGRATS.
Exam season requires a total change of mindset and priorities. It’s the time of the year where the new, scarce landscape of social activities means gatherings ending at half ten, people saying the three words “I’m not drinking”, and is more or less the only time of the year it’s somehow acceptable to stop off at the library after being out.
Sooner or later, you’ll have to let go of the idea of exam season life running perfectly. There are only two ways in which things will actually happen: you can take the idealist-in-denial route or the pragmatist-who’s-fully-accepted-life-now route. To my mind, the best way to get through the season is to take the latter and try to be aware of what’s actually happening so that you can be sure whether you’re getting work done. So here are some pointers to get your mind fully immersed in the reality of exam season.
Expectation: You’ll do some revision.
Reality: You’re going to find out quite early on that the word “revision” more often ends up involving learning for the first time.
Expectation: You’ll treat revision like a full-time, 9-5 job.
Reality: You stayed up late revising last night after a day of procrastinating and now there’s no way you’ll be up to start at 9am. Repeat. If you’re in final year, you might even come to realise that this may well be the last opportunity you get to sleep in til 11am and work from 2pm til midnight, and you may just find yourself squeezing every last drop out of student life.
Expectation: You’ll get to the library, get a seat and get going.
Reality: Someone you’ve never seen before seems to have moved in all their belongings to the spot at the library you thought no one else knew about.
Expectation: You’ll exercise during your breaks.
Reality: You know you should exercise - it helps
Expectation: You won’t let hygiene slip...
Reality: By week three you’ll be down to showering every other day. Two weeks later, every three days. Another two weeks, only after exercise (not very frequent). Exam week arrives, there is no longer any certainty. From here on a transition has begun between human and living ecosystem.
Expectation: You’ll get your healthy diet back on track, and maybe even experiment with new types of food.
Reality: You’ll experiment with different types of frozen pizza.
Expectation: You’ll strip your life down to a spiritual minimalist ritual of exercise, study and sleep.
Reality: Netflix is your god.
Expectation: You’ll save money by not going out.
Reality: You’ll spend that money on Amazon and ASOS.
Expectation: You’ll do some group study with course mates every now and then - a bit of group study will be a great way to take the edge off revision.
Reality: It will be an anxiety-inducing search for evidence that your course mates are equally as unprepared as you.
Expectation: You and your flatmates will all help each other through it, like you imagined when you signed the group lease.
Reality: You have no greater regrets than signing that group lease.
Expectation: It’s your last exam tomorrow morning. You made it. You’ll get a good night sleep before your exam.
Reality: Your flatmate just finished his exams and it’s 4am and he’s making guacamole in the kitchen listening to flamenco (doesn’t even make sense geographically) with 4 booming voices.
Expectation: You won’t procrastinate during study; you’ll dedicate time during lunch or at the end of the day for the internet.
Reality: Here you are reading this.