Death row dealings

Curbing the sense of dread that comes with taking exams

Graphic by: Sarah Massey | Production Manager

I know what waiting on death row feels like. 

It’s the final hour leading up to a difficult exam that you’ve spent days preparing for. You’ve gone through the notes over and over again but you can’t shake the feeling of debilitating uncertainty. 

You have expectations for what death will feel like but who really knows until you walk into the execution chamber and greet your executioner? You’ve reviewed and spent hours discussing death and what lies beyond with peers but you’ll never fully grasp it until the moment it arrives. 

In case that all wasn’t clear enough, the executioner is your professor, the exam is your untimely death and everything is horrible. 

Perhaps taking an exam is not quite as intimidating as a lethal injection but a feeling of impending demise generally precedes both experiences. 

The best way I’ve found to cope with that feeling is to enter an exam—or an execution chamber—as prepared as possible to deal with the task before you. Periodic procrastination has led me to some extreme methods of preparation. 

I’ve recorded myself reading study notes aloud and listened to the recording during my walk to class. I’ve put my notes in gallon-size plastic bags to read them while I’m taking a shower. Then, of course, I’ve done the more commonplace marathon cramming session the night before and morning of an exam. 

I’ve found throughout my three and a quarter years of college education that the most effective use of my studying time has been rewriting my notes until my hand blisters. Let the blood and pus flow out as the recollection of knowledge flows in. 

This, of course, is a disgusting hyperbole to stress the importance of diligently studying. 

I’ve found that many people set aside time to “study,” when they should be setting aside time to STUDY. 

There’s a marked difference between reading a page of your textbook by the glow of “Friends” reruns and actually committing yourself to distraction-free studying. People are especially prone to distracted studying when doing it within a group of friends. 

Don’t waste your own time by studying while distracted. Put in the effort and focus required to actually commit your course content to memory and make sure you feel comfortable applying the material practically. 

Then you can face your executioner with confidence.