In the past few weeks, I’ve had 4 exams and I thought I would share my experience as a first-year student. Personally, I dread multiple-choice exams. I have probably been dreading multiple-choice exams since my Paper 1’s for my IB courses during high school. I just find it difficult to show my thorough understanding of the course content by just filling in bubbles on a scantron sheet. Simply put, multiple-choice exams make me anxious. The idea of either accidentally skipping a question and then getting all the following questions in the wrong number, or thinking out the correct answer but marking the incorrect letter on the answer sheet makes me fearful since just a tiny mistake has the power to ruin my entire grade.
I would choose long response essay or an oral presentation over a multiple-choice exam any day. However, I see why most of my classes would choose a multiple-choice exam over other methods. One difference I have noticed between my high school exams and University exams is that 100% of my test grade can completely depend on my selected choice in multiple-choice questions. From experience with the questions on my University exams I have taken, I find myself eliminating all options except two, giving me a 50% chance of getting the questions right.
I do not consider myself unfamiliar with the testing environment however I do usually get very nervous before, during and after an exam. Considering that many of my exams throughout University will be multiple-choice, I need to create a plan in order for me to be comfortable with my own weakness in multiple-choice questions. I have come to realize that relaxing and being confident with what you do know really makes a difference in these type of situations.
During my own reflection, I realized that it was my own “positive mindset” that got me through my most dreaded moments, that first University exam. Even if in the end everything (including my mark) was fine, it was definitely an experience that caused substantial amounts of stress in my life. I prepared to set my mentality by first analyzing and determining my weakness, multiple-choice questions.
My first set of exams as a first-year student was not a bad one overall. I don’t believe I have ever personally looked forward to an exam however, there are so many things in our power that we can do in order to make the experience better. After my initial exam, I was determined to make the second, third, fourth and the infinite other exams I will have to take better. This sort of mentality is one I had to work on, and obviously it is not perfect, I am working on improving my approach to exam taking and exam mentality as a whole.
It is not just about doing my readings, taking notes, and making sure I know what I am doing – it is about making sure I am learning and preparing myself for the level of stress (whichever it might be) that exams give me. I can prepare for an exam for weeks, get to the room and be extremely nervous and struggle to concentrate, but in the end, it all comes to me and how well I know myself and trust my instinct.
The ability to work and concentrate under pressure is an incredible quality to have, especially as university students we work on it every single day. When I realized and became aware of this quality I started to see improvements: in the way I felt before the exam, my train of thought during the exam, and my confidence after taking the exam, so I encourage you become aware of this quality and push yourself even further from your comfort zone.