Top Tips for Tackling Alternative Assessments

VP Education Alissa Chohan shares some great advice to help you make this assessment period as pain-free as possible. Make sure you take a read to ease your stress levels!

Even without being in a pandemic, exams and assessment periods are a stressful and anxiety-provoking time for everyone, whether that be due to the pressure to succeed, questioning whether you’ve done enough, or trying to store what seems like a library full of information in your brain.

But there are some key things that you can do to make this period as pain-free as possible, so you can finish this academic year on a high. After all, without wanting to sound like that stereotypical secondary school teacher we all had…exams are essentially a showcase of the knowledge and skills you have gained at university. So here are my top tips for smashing our exams in order to celebrate in Founder's Quads with your friends and a glass of whatever makes you feel good!

Before the exam

Broaden your revision horizons

  • Contact your module leader - Feeling like you’ve read the same paragraph in the textbook 100 times and still don’t understand that equation or theory you’re revising? Reach out to your module leader to have a quick MS Teams call or drop them an email. Sometimes the best thing to do is to have a virtual face to face candid conversation to vent about your stress, but also to gain clarification on specific content or exam queries. You have nothing to lose by reaching out and more often than not academics are more than happy to help out! You don’t have to feel like a burden for doing so, it’s part of their role as an academic!
  • YouTube videos - Once a sceptic about YouTube being an educational source, I have been converted – there is some amazing YouTube content out there that can explain content in a variety of ways, making it easier than ever to understand. Be wary that are you clicking on the right content and the credibility of the YouTuber, but used well, this can be a lifesaver!
  • Have a change of scenery! - Although you may not be able to sit in your favourite aesthetic coffee shop to revise, take advantage of the spring sun and take your textbooks outside if you can. If you’re on campus, you can switch things up by going to Founder's Reading Room or making use of the Library balcony.
  • We all know how tempting it is to down a can of red bull to keep us awake and focus, but realistically we also all know the crash it brings after. Exam season is a marathon and not a sprint, so although the occasional can may give you that boost you need, avoid making it a habit.

Take it easy on the Red Bull (and all other energy drinks)

  • We all know how tempting it is to down a can of Red Bull to keep us awake and focus, but realistically we also all know the crash it brings after. Exam season is a marathon and not a sprint, so although the occasional can may give you that boost you need, avoid making it a habit.

Create a schedule

  • Plan out your days and what revision and content you want to cover. Set your goals and targets and make sure they are realistic. Make sure you schedule in breaks and downtime and that you’re looking after yourself physically and mentally. Succeeding in your degree does not have to come at the cost of your health.

Sleep!

  • Make sure you get enough sleep the day before your exams. As tempting as it may be to stay up all night revising, the last thing you want to do is to be feeling too tired to concentrate on your exam days. Don’t let your hard work go to waste.

Sitting your alternative assessment

Stay calm!

  • You’ve put in the work and are ready for your exam! Try not to panic and doubt yourself – don’t be your own worst enemy. There may be things on there that you’re unsure about and that’s okay, but there’ll also be so much you do know, so don’t beat yourself up. Have some water by your side, open a window for some fresh air, and have confidence that you’re smart enough and capable enough to succeed.

Eat beforehand

  • Whether you have a morning or afternoon exam, make sure you fuel your body! You need energy and you need to be able to function well. Whether you have some Weetabix and fruit or treat yourself to a McDonald's, just make sure you have enough energy to concentrate and work effectively.

Get rid of distractions - turn your phone off!

  • It is so important that you are able to focus, free from any distractions. If you struggle to get some free space at home, you can contact the Wellbeing Services at the University who can make access arrangements for you to use a private library study room to sit your exams in. When it comes to your mobile phone, not only is it a means of procrastination that you simply would not be allowed to have in a face to face exam, but it also removes the temptation to scroll on Instagram, or ask your friends for answers, which is an academic misconduct offence that you will get penalised for by the College.

What to do afterwards?

YOU DID IT! Whether it was your first or last exam, feel proud of yourself that you completed it and move forward. If you were unhappy with your performance, try not to contemplate it for hours after, it will only throw you off your game for your next exam or leave you pondering about something you can’t change. Shift your focus to revising for the next exam or doing something that relaxes you, whether that be going to the gym, ordering a huge takeaway, or spending some time with friends.

Reaching out for support

We all know how much pressure exams can bring, but there are people here to support you. You can contact the independent SU Advice Centre any time via email at advice@su.rhul.ac.uk or the College's Wellbeing Services. I’d also recommend contacting your module leader or personal tutor for academic-related queries and reach out to family and friends for some stress relief. For further advice on support and where to receive it, feel free to email me at VPEducation@su.rhul.ac.uk.