‘Please have mercy on me
Take it easy on my heart.’
That was the plea I uttered as 1st Nov rolled around. I kicked off my shoes in the exam hall and sat cross-legged on my seat, waiting for the invigilator to click the ‘START’ button.
It had been a gruelling week. Sieving through the barrage of information on Te Tiriti o Waitangi was like throwing myself into a haystack without knowing what I was looking for. I re-read articles, flipped through countless books … and still felt that something was missing.
That is my weakness. I am a perfectionist and it does not stand me in good stead for humanities-based assessments. I keep nitpicking and searching for more evidence, as if I am a detective who is not satisfied to close the case. I had to learn to be content with what I had.
To counter my ‘I-need-to-be-100%-on-the-spot’ tendencies, I adopted two strategies. I decided to distill the key message that the article/ book was trying to convey into bullet points, which I would then draw on to formulate my main thesis of the essay. This includes quotes that resonated with me. I also decided to stick with this structure for each paragraph – main point/ elaboration/ evidence (statistic/ case study/ landmark event)/ elaborate on how evidence supports my main point/ concluding sentence.
(If you’re keen, here’s how I structure my notes for humanities-based subjects – a bullet point document & a sample essay.)
‘Even though you don’t mean to hurt me
You keep tearing me apart.’
That was exactly how I felt about HUMSERV 101, a paper on psychology for social workers. If Te Tiriti was a fountain, Psych was a Nigara Falls. There were 11 lectures’ worth of content we had to cram for. And I mean it when I say cram – definition + key features/ principles of a theory + examples from psychological experiments/ real life.
I was feeling slightly shaky as I sat at TANK (the juice/smoothies shop on campus), attempting to use a Strawberry Lush to egg myself on. Notes were spread out all over the mini table I occupied. I had booked myself in for a Restricted test the day before, which was why I still had 50% of the mountain of notes to get through.
In such key moments, I found it useful to organize my notes into neat, digestible points that I can easily absorb. I splashed out one sub-topic per page of a fulscap, branching it out like a mindmap. At one glance, I could have a bird’s eye view of what I had to plonk down on my exam script. Here’s a sample of my HUMSERV 101 notes & how I structure it!
‘You’ve got a hold of me
Don’t even know your power’
I knew that I was going a bit exam-crazy when I started spouting nonsense at the dining hall table (you guys know what, or should I say who, I’m talking about hehehe). So I took a deep breath, and a leap of faith, and started going for walks after dinner. I was honestly doubtful at first about following my instincts. Taking an hour long break seemed to make a disastrous dent in my study plans.
But surprisingly, I came back like a bouncing bunny ready to forego my social media scrolls & ‘just another FB article’ procrastination tendencies. I had smelt the fresh grass, filled my lungs with the night air and bathed myself in the romantic lights of the city. The brain was now ready to work.
There are a couple more things that really helped me get through this period. I get hugs from my friends all the time and I absolutely loooove goofing around them.
This is me proclaiming my love for the gym at the library. Speaking of which, I never gave up on the gym during exam periods. The gym, if anything, gave me the strength to leap like a humpback whale over the sea of constant worrying.
‘And even though you got good intentions
I need you to set me free.’
I’m almost free now. 2 more days to go till PHILO 105G, a tricky 50 multiple choice question assessment. (Tip: Checking out past year exam papers really helped in mentally steering me about what to expect. UoA Library website > Exam papers > Search bar for your paper).
Like the moon that waxes and wanes, I still need periods of space before I can push hard. I’ve already started on working on personal projects that enthrall me, such as canvassing for suggestions on Books to read for Summer 2k16! (Warning: It is a long ass list).
Freedom is near and freedom will be here. Best of all, freedom is when I’m pushing myself alongside the people I hold dear 🙂
P.S. Some upbeat songs for when we are near beaten by exam-stress! Try Everything by Shakira (which helped me climb up from failing my first Restricted test to a pass on my second try), Fight Song by Rachel Platten (which helped me complete my 10k on a treadmill), Masterpiece by Jessie J and Wings by Little Mix (perennial fav Zumba Fridays warm up song! #YESCHRIS).
P.S.S. Also, when I’m feeling down on image/ love life issues, I LOVE THESE SONGS as confidence bolsters. Try by Cobbie Calliat and Sit Still Look Pretty by Daya (I sing it as I walk down Symonds St & skip across Albert Park!)
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Thanks for the summer reading list– looks like a goodie!