Myths and Realities
The following should be read in conjunction with the information on positive thinking. It highlights some of the negative messages we tell ourselves about what might happen in an exam, and challenges common myths about exams.
'I won't pass'
- Most students do pass. Check the pass rate for your course.
- If you have done all the work required, then you are likely to pass.
'What if I don't understand the questions?'
- The questions will be concerned with those topics and issues covered in the content of the course.
- You are very likely to know the subject matter already - though you might need to 'interpret' the question.
- A question might be framed in a way which forces you to think about a topic in a new light. Look at preparing for different exam types: 'preparing for an essay based exam' which discusses how you might prepare yourself for the different ways a question may be framed.
'Will I need to know everything?'
- Very few people follow every part of a course with equal interest or comprehension.
- Even experts on a subject will tell you that they can't know everything about it.
- Some examinations give you a variety of options, so that you can answer on those topics which you do know.
- Don't let some minor gap in your knowledge give you cause for anxiety.
'They make the questions especially difficult!'
- There is no reason why examiners should make questions especially difficult.
- In fact the opposite is true. Lecturers want as many people to pass the exam as possible.
'I feel worse than anybody else.'
- Other people will feel nervous too - for the same reasons that you do.
- Many people may not even admit it, but still feel nervous.
'My memory is terrible.'
- Don't imagine that exams are simply a test of memory.
- Most courses require you to demonstrate your understanding of the subject and show that you can reflect intelligently on its concepts and principles.
- Very few exams simply require the memorising of facts.
'I can't write fast.'
- You will be judged on the quality of what you produce, not the quantity.
- You don't need to write at high speed if you are sticking to the point.
'What if I really do fail?
- Even if you were to fail an exam, all is not necessarily lost.
- Failing an exam is not the end of the world.
Ignore urban myths
- Pay no attention to horror stories and scare-mongering.
- Even if they are true, these stories are usually about exceptions to what is normal.
- Concentrate on positive efforts to prepare yourself.
Source: The above information has been adapted from Johnson, R. (1998). Study skills program [Version 1.0, online]. Manchester, UK: Clifton Press.