Posted in Perspectives

Story Time: Lessons from Exam Week

Exams are always tough. It doesn’t matter what the subject is or how well you prepare for it, each exam presents its own set of challenges.

And then there’s med school…

Finals this year deserves its own category of diabolical, I think. We wrote 8 exams within 4 consecutive days. My friends and I are still trying to figure out if that’s entirely legal. In my opinion, unless you’re someone who goes home after class to study for six hours every day all throughout the year, there’s no way you can approach exam week without at least a hint of panic.

Three weeks prior to the start of exams was when most of the class started preparing, I think. It’s funny. You’d think that would be more than enough time. I did too. We were all wrong. So very wrong.

Time passed and before we knew it, it was study-week, our last chance to redeem the sombre situation. That’s when things really started going south. We began to realise that if we failed here, a year’s worth of literal blood, sweat and tears would have been in vain. And failing did seem like a very likely outcome indeed. Gradually, people began to lose their will to live. I wish I was joking about that, but I’m not.

When you’re under that kind of pressure, a few things start to happen. The first is that self-care goes right out the window. Things like feeding yourself and changing out of your pajamas take a back seat when you have hoards of anatomy notes to get through.

Secondly, your stress levels go through the roof. So, the logical thing to do would be to abandon your coping mechanisms, right? Well, if your coping mechanisms are as time-consuming as mine, then yes. You can’t very well spend hours journaling, watching anime or scrolling through Tumblr when you have a six hours worth of exams on Monday to prepare for.

Your life comes to a standstill. Essentially, you become a shell of a person. You can’t see beyond this enormous mountain you have to traverse. With deteriorating physical and mental health, the only thing keeping me sane was the few minutes a day I got to chat with my friends. It’s easier to deal with problems when you know you’re not in it alone. Sharing concerns and advice really helped me sort through my feelings and re-evaluate the way I was approaching these exams.

We came to the conclusion that you have to do your best under any given circumstance and whatever the outcome, you can never be ashamed of it because you did all you could in that moment. Whatever the consequence, you can deal with that when the time arises and not a moment before. It’s useless trying focus on a problem if you already have the negative outcome in mind.

Because of this revelation (and some prayer), I was able to walk into my exam on Monday without fear. The first paper was terrible, but I shifted my focus to the next one and then the next.

And now I’m here, physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted, but happy. I’m happy because I know that I did all that I could and if that wasn’t good enough… Well, we’ll see what happens.



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