5 Things: Exam advice

Exams are almost upon us, and I wish you all the best of luck. I didn’t like preparing for and doing exams, and so it amazes me that Japanese people seem to love exams. Why does this country have SO many exams for everything? Elementary school entrance exams, junior high entrance exams, senior high entrance exams, universities, companies, companies, promotions, languages, hobbies, and more! It is like Japanese people do exams as like a hobby or as an addiction! Anyway, here are five things that all students should take note of during the exam time.

Photo CC from ZeLIG, at https://flic.kr/p/7UUFEK

Photo CC from ZeLIG School, at https://flic.kr/p/7UUFEK

1. DON’T be late to your exam. It is a stupid thing to say, but every year, someone comes late or misses the exam. Why? They study late and so they sleep in; or they don’t check their timetable. It might be a snowy day, or heavy rains and so trains are delayed, sometimes up to two hours late. If it’s a snowy day, leave early. Make sure you’re in the room 20 mintues before the exam begins.

Last day before final exam. By Svein Halvor Halvorsen, https://www.flickr.com/photos/sveinhal/2533808944

Last day before final exam. By Svein Halvor Halvorsen, https://www.flickr.com/photos/sveinhal/2533808944

2. DON’T study late. Every year someone sleeps in and misses their exam. Worse, they come to the exam and fall asleep before they finish question one. Exam invigilators don’t wake up stupid students who sleep in exams. Also, it’s vital that you give your brain a rest, so please go to bed before midnight. Sleep is really important to help make memories and consolidate information. See these TED talks: http://www.ted.com/search?q=sleep.

3. Wear gloves in winter before the exams. Yes, you must keep your fingers warm and ready to write. I’d also recommend two layers of socks so if your feet are warm, your whole body can be comfortable, too. If you have a cold, please bring tissues and blow your nose. Nobody likes someone who sniffs during an exam.

4. Revise, revise, and revise. I’ve told most of my classes at the start of each semester that they must revise the class within 24 hours, within a week, within a month, and so forth, because of the forgetting curve (see Wikipedia). I really, really hope this week isn’t the first time you’ve seen some of your notes since you wrote them way back months ago! I study and work with music, especially music without words (like jazz or classical), because it helps to focus my brain. It works for some people, but not for everyone. I also like to work / study at a café, because the people around me somehow stops me from thinking about checking my email, Twitter, doing blog updates, and so forth. I just focus on the work I am meant to do. Find your best study environment.

5. Relax. People who go into exams nervous and stressed didn’t have time to relax, and their brains will probably freeze in the exam. Go for a 20 minute walk around your neighbourhood the night before your exam; walk by yourself or with a friend. You need time away from technology and books, and usually 20 minutes is the minimum.

Walking on cobblestones, by Peter Thoeny at https://flic.kr/p/ngPJRv

Walking on cobblestones, by Peter Thoeny at https://flic.kr/p/ngPJRv


6. Write your name in English. Actually, write your name in the Roman alphabet. I really don’t understand why Japanese students write their name in Chinese characters on an English test. It’s an ENGLISH TEST!  What if I wrote my name in Korean on a Japanese test?! Yes, I can speak and read a little Korean.

Bonus 2. Eat and drink well. Make sure your body is operating smoothly and at peak condition. Do not eat fatty, oily, or processed foods. Processed foods contain chemicals designed to kill bacterial cells (and yours). Only eat fresh food made with real vegetables. Eat lots of colours of fruit and vegetables. Keep your favourite snacks handy as a reward for studying or completing tasks. Do not forget breakfast, your brain needs energy. Drink lots of water. Do have one or two cups of coffee only in the morning to help make your brain alert and functioning more.

Finally, best of luck and enjoy your holidays 🙂

Dinner by Tarciso, CC at https://flic.kr/p/jhxfu2

Dinner by Tarciso, CC at https://flic.kr/p/jhxfu2

Language comprehension

I love these internet pictures, and I’ve written about them before (5 things every new teacher needs to know). Often they include quotes and ideas on how to live a better life. Here is one that resonates so much in not just language, but human relations, too. English as a Foreign Language (EFL) students do have listening problems, and do need to improve their listening skills. However, it’s not always a lack of listening skills (both top-down and bottom-up), it can also be how information is perceived and integrated into your comprehension of the conversation. I also teach student-teachers from the UK, and I’ve noticed that sometimes the notes they take don’t quite match what I said. Listening is a complex thing. Words spoken does not equal words understood. We hear the words, but we don’t always take in what the speaker says, but instead, we interpret what we think the speaker is meaning, and sometimes what we think the speaker means is dependent on what we understand or are prepared for. There’s a lot more that can be said on this. Look up Fodor’s Language of Thought (LOT) and Field’s Listening in the Language Classroom.

I'm only responsible for what I say; not for what you understand.

I’m only responsible for what I say; not for what you understand.