Throughout my undergraduate career, I had always been an A/B grade student, described as an overachiever, and truly dedicated to my course work. I was anticipating the transition of class work and tests from undergraduate to optometry school to be difficult, but nothing could have prepared me enough for my first set of graduate school exams. At UIWRSO, during my first semester, we had a total of three exam weeks, with each week consisting of four days of nothing but exams and afternoon labs. Essentially, it was like having undergraduate final exam week three times a semester.
The stress that built up during my first test week really affected my performance on them and overall course outcome. Now, since completing my first year of optometry school I realized how important it is to stay calm during exams. Each person will achieve that calmness in a different way, and I hope you to find which method works best for you.
My first words of advice: “Never be afraid to ask for help”. At UIWRSO, upperclassmen who excelled in a previous course can become tutors. I highly encourage anyone struggling to sign up for a tutor in that course. And the best part: it is completely complementary! Tutors can provide you with practice problems and help you work through topics which are unclear. Many students in my class have tutors and you shouldn’t be ashamed to have one as well.
Another recommendation: On test days, arrive early, and arrive prepared! It seems like an easy concept but you want to avoid mishaps at all costs, especially during test weeks. Make sure to get a good night’s rest. It has been proven that “pulling an all-nighter” can have serious negative effects on an individual’s exam taking ability. Have your electronic device charged with the exam file pre-downloaded, bring a pencil, pen, and calculator, and for good measures, don’t forget your favorite lucky charm.
After you finish your test, you will notice many of your classmates aggregating outside the lecture hall discussing their grades, and/or difficult questions. I personally chose to avoid those conversations. Usually I had my next exam in 24 hours and needed to focus on reviewing that course material more than worrying about that one question I might have missed on the exam I just completed. Once exam week has ended, the professors will post exam grades on Blackboard, and if you did not do as well as you thought, I urge you to make an appointment to meet with that professor and go over the questions you missed, to make sure it doesn’t happen again on the cumulative final exam.
My final word of advice: Don’t give up! I personally sometimes felt defeated after an exam week, but I reminded myself that I DO know this stuff and so will you. You have sat through numerous lectures, studied countless hours, and it is now your time to shine. If you don’t do as well as you thought during test week 1, then test week 2 is the time to prove to yourself that you can do better and do exactly that. In optometry school, you are not completing against anyone else, except yourself. So, on the first day of school, put your best foot forward and don’t let that foot ever fall behind.