Training and its role in Exam preparation
So, you have an exam. Probably a few of them. Whether these are GCSEs, A levels or any other level,
this is a challenge that you are, voluntarily or otherwise, going to undertake. If you embrace this challenge, then you should quickly arrive at the conclusion that you want to get the best results you can. Therefore, your goal is to be as ready as you can be for the exam, so that you can perform at your best.
Just like a boxer who has a big fight in a few weeks, or an athlete with a race – your mission is to ensure you perform the best you possibly can on that day. Battles are won not on the day, but in the preparation.
This provides a useful lens to examine your activities, which is essentially the question “Will this help me be better prepared on exam day?”
This article will be on training. Turns out, training helps for many reasons. Here are only a few:
Sleep is paramount, not only to mental performance on exam day, but also in learning and digesting the information you need in weeks prior.
Exams are stressful. You know you’re going to be tested, but there’s inherent uncertainty in this test. Every paper year in year out is different, which only adds to this.
It’s easy to find your experience of living increasingly tends towards one of a disembodied fact hoover. This can make sleep difficult – minds run racing late into the night and early into the morning with thoughts of worry, stress or endless sheep. Training removes this problem.
Training creates a metronome to your week. By exercising the body, you are helping to work out stress that accumulates through revision and the oncoming exams. You are also helping yourself get to sleep by providing a need for proper rest.
Training brings you back to your body, your breath. This grounds you. You’re back in control. Breathe. Relax. Sleep.
- Staying motivated
Training will help you to mentally switch off from work. This is vital for long term learning. You want to approach studying in such a way as to maximise the quality of your study time. This means ensuring you’re going to focus. Sitting staring at notes all day, getting demoralised and bored is not effective.
Everyone who has gone to Kung Fu
class knows that once you leave, you feel invigorated and a lighter sense of being then when you first walked in. This helps with studying! Lifting your mood helps keep you motivated, and will help you approach the next session with energy and determination, rather than mental fatigue and melancholy. You’re human, which means you’re going to waver from time to time – don’t be arrogant, plan to keep yourself motivated and fully invested in your work. Train!
- Posture and Health
Training, on a purely physical level, will undo what you do to your body through a day of study. Research shows that sitting still all through the day is just not good for you*. A side effect of studying can be you finding that your capacity for a Mr Burns posture impersonation increases dramatically. This is not ideal.
Posture has a much deeper effect on your general biochemistry than you might believe. An excellent Ted talk on this by Amy Cuddy, which I’ll leave at the bottom of the article. Quick summary – “standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success”.
In short, stretch! Train! A healthy mind requires a healthy body.
The fight or flight response is not one you want to experience during an exam. This is an exceptionally evolutionarily useful response which loses its usefulness when you have to sit and think for a few hours under timed conditions.
But hey, this may be tough, but so are you. Mental determination is developed not only through hours of study, but minutes (which may feel like hours) of iron bridge, hundreds of leg lifts and breathing through intense stretches.
So training helps you keep your cool, helps you get your game face on. Bring on the challenge.
In summary, training should be a part of any scholar’s study regime. It helps you learn more effectively. It improves your sleep and corrects bad postural habits brought on by excessive study. It brings you back to your body, prevents accumulation of stress and worry.
Of course, this is all in moderation. Balance has to be found by you – too little and too much both become detriments. The day prior to an exam may not be the best day to attempt a marathon for the first time, but it might be a great day for an hour of tai chi to make sure you get a great night’s sleep.
Ultimately, it’s good for your health, and remaining healthy is a good idea for exam day.
Best of luck, see you in class.
MIT study tips: http://web.mit.edu/uaap/learning/study/breaks.html
Ted talk mentioned: http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en