Finals. The word is enough to strike fear into the bones of any student. However, as much as you don’t want to have to think about them, soon you will have no choice.
Indeed, it isn’t just finals that dental students have to worry about. Students of all years will have to knuckle down in the next few months and prepare for a few hours of intense concentration which will decide if your summer can be filled with freedom or further hours cooped up inside studying for re-sits.
Well, first you should know that there is no special secret to passing your exams. Many have tried and failed to put down on paper what it is that makes some students sail through exams and others fall by the wayside. In truth, it is a mixture of techniques, methods and sheer hard work that will ensure you pass, and in the next few issues we are going to highlight some of them.
Think of this as your step-by-step guide to success. Follow our easy steps and stay away from too many late nights out – although the occasional one is allowed – and you will be on your way to passing with flying colours. This issue we are going to start at the very beginning and focus on all the things you need to do before even thinking about picking up a book.
This may be the last thing on your mind, but if you have somewhere that is clean, comfortable and quiet it will be a much easier place to revise in. Although ‘clean’ isn’t the average description of a student house, a vacuum here and a little sprucing up there can make all the difference. Hey presto, you will have your own little oasis of calm to get you through the testing weeks ahead.
Fruit = good. Kebabs = bad. As Gillian McKeith has told us many times, you are what you eat. Therefore, it is very important that throughout your exams you put into your body what you want to get out of it. It isn’t rocket science – if you want to stay healthy, which you do, you have to eat healthily.
That means minimising the amount of processed and take-away food that you eat and stocking up on fresh fruit, vegetables and that king of brain food, oily fish. Not having to worry about whether you are feeling ill or not will ensure that you have more time to spend on revision, and the free time that you have can be filled with doing something that you enjoy instead of feeling sorry for yourself under the covers.
A little of what you fancy does you good, however. Of course the basic advice is to eat well and stay off the booze, but remember that abstaining from all treats during revision is a recipe for one miserable student. Allow yourself to indulge once a week by going out with your friends to dinner, the pub or even the cinema. It will ensure you don’t feel like you are missing out completely and will keep you motivated to stay on track.
The value of exercise
It is one of those things that always falls by the wayside when you are busy, but at stressful times exercise is one of the best things you can do. It releases feel-good
endorphins, making you feel better and less stressed, enabling you to focus when you need to. Try at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise four times a week. Whether you do this by playing a team sport, running by yourself or walking to and from the dental school everyday – it all counts.
Learning to switch off and relax is one of the best things you can do throughout the exam period. Although it may seem like the last thing you can possibly do, taking time out to de-stress enables your mind to rest and prevents you from becoming burnt out.
You may feel that working 12 hours a day will give you all the tools you need for a successful result, but devoting so much time to revision can leave your brain tired and therefore not working at its optimum ability.
Learning simple breathing techniques that you can do at the beginning or end of the day could make the difference and set you up for an effective day’s studying and a good night’s sleep. Alternatively, you can look into tried and tested relaxation pursuits like yoga which, practised regularly, can have a dramatic effect on your stress levels.