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by  Michael Marinus, an early thirties  dad of Megan(3) and James(1) who also works as a Chiropractor in Joburg You’ll find him on twitter @mikemarinus or visit his blog

Dear Student.

When I think of all the exams I wrote whilst at school and during my university days, one recurring theme comes to mind. FEAR. It was my worst enemy during these stressful times and it is only recently that I came across some information about this ‘fear’ state of mind that I wish I had understood when I was in your position.

We all go through a certain amount of healthy anxiety when faced with an examination situation but it is how we deal with this emotion that ultimately decides the outcome. If we let it get the better of us, our chances of performing at our best become impossible. Fear is a state in which the brain changes gears and looks for excuses rather than opportunities. Let me explain.

When you are confronted with stressful situations and you allow yourself to be sucked down by negative emotions to the point of fear, a part of your nervous system activates something called the fight or flight response within you. This is your body’s way of dealing with fear and leaves you in a state where you are constantly agitated, the blood is flowing to the wrong bits of you and you cannot think clearly. This dulls the part of your brain that needs to be sharp when studying and makes it almost impossible to retain information in a way that it can be easily accessed during the actual exam.

Now, how do we make sure that we don’t end up in this position? Fear’s greatest enemies are preparation and confidence. The more you prepare, the more confident you will become in your ability, its that simple. For those of you who tend to worry and put off studying, make sure that a big part of your preparation is learning to calm yourself before trying to study. Half an hour spent putting yourself in the right mindset is a lot more beneficial than three hours spent in useless agitation in front of your books.

Cramming is not preparation. Believe me, I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work. Preparation needs to be a constant process that puts you into a routine as you approach the exam date. It is a proven medical fact that your brain needs time to absorb information and to truly have something sink in, you need to have encountered it at least 17 times during your preparation. This is why, as boring as it may be to go over and over your work, it is necessary if you want to be able to retrieve it when you are sitting in that room and its only you and your thoughts versus the questions.

Good luck to you all, take your time to think about what they are asking and most importantly don’t rush to be the first one to finish. Look over the paper to check you haven’t missed anything and you’ll be just fine.

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