Exams are not easy. Even the easy exams are not easy. They require days – maybe weeks – of preparation, commitment and, many times, mental and physical energy drainage. Even after all of the effort, most of you exam victims (*cheese*) will still wonder, 30 seconds before the word ‘start’, whether you had done enough to prepare yourself. You will not answer all of the questions with a smile, and some may even make you cry. But this should not deter you from dusting yourself off (metaphorically, otherwise it is probably classed as examination distraction), finishing the paper, the forgetting about it until results day. I’m serious!
Below is a short compilation of what you should do before during and after the exam. The list does not include the long term stuff. Exam season has already hit! There is no point in pondering over what you could have done. Instead, think of what you can do NOW to help your journey to success.
Before the exam:
- Fill your brain – As I mentioned, these points are for those of you taking exams now. Like, right now (or tomorrow or something). You do not have time at this point to memorise an entire book. The key is to condense the key information into small (eatable) chunks, and go over that. If you are still having trouble remembering key information, use a poem or contraction or association or anything which will help you remember.
- Spiritual preparation – Whilst working hard to prepare yourself for the exam, always remember that, no matter how much effort (or lack of effort) you put behind exam prep, the end result lies only with Allah (SWT).
On the authority of Abu Harayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: Allah the Almighty said:
I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assemble better than it. And if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.
It was related by al-Buhkari (also by Muslim, at-Tirmidhi and Ibn-Majah).
The above Hadith is simply beautiful. All we have to do is take a small step towards the Almighty, and will get so much more in return. Subhanallah. Therefore, at exam time, do not falter to ask Him for all the help you need. If you are stressed out, ask Him to take the stress away. If you feel that none of the information is sticking in your head, recite ربِّي زِدْن علما and ask Him to increase your knowledge and strengthen you memory.
During the exam:
- Don’t waste the waiting time – When you take your seat in the exam hall, the time for revision officially ends, and the key thing to do is sit and pray. Whilst you wait for the invigilator to say ‘start’, recite supplications to ask the Almighty for assistance with your exam. Sending salutations (durood) to the Prophet (pbuh) and dhikr (remembering Allah) is also extremely beneficial. When it comes to sitting the exam, I get panic attacks, especially when I see a difficult question. The only way I calm myself down is by closing my eyes and doing dhikr. Dhikr has an astounding calming affect on ones heart, and it can really help to clear your mind in the exam – especially good for those who have exam block (just forgetting everything out of nerves in the exam).
- Start with the name of Allah – This is simple. Say بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم (Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem) before you start your exam.
- Write down key information – This is particularly useful if you need to refer back to snippets of information. If you know that you will need certain information in the exam, write it down as soon as you receive the paper. This can include acronyms, equations, and….anything you need.
- Answer all the questions – You cannot leave any space blank, even if you think it is wrong. Candidate numbers ensure that whoever is marking your paper does not know who you are. Therefore, leaving a question blank for fear of sounding silly, is silly in itself. If you see a difficult questions, and just cannot get your head round it, move on to the next question, and return to the first one at the end. This way, your mind will be clearer when answering it for the second time.
After the exam:
- Forget about it – Exactly that. Forget about how the exam went, and what you wrote, and what the questions were and whatever else. It is completed and handed in. You cannot go back to change it, so there is no use pondering over it. DO NOT ask your peers what they wrote, or check the book to see if you got it right. It might make you feel better (or worse), but it will definitely not change anything. The best thing to do is simply forget about the exam, until results day. If you have another exam, focus on that. And if they are all finished, then enjoy! Do not spoil your revision or enjoyment thinking about what is done.
- Thank Allah – Once exams are over, the feeling of relief is amazing. Thank the Almighty for all of the blessings He has given you, namely (at that point) pulling you through the exams, and for giving you that feeling of relief in it self.
- It is not the end – Remember that exams should never ever ever be seen as a beginning or ending of education – or life (for the drama queens). It is simply a step. They do not determine your worth and you should never let a bad or good exam determine your entire existence.
Love the knowledge and the knowledge will love you.