December 16, 2010

[Experiences] Exams 101

Pencils, Anti-malarial drugs, Electric cables, Mobile towers... Seems like I am getting 'out-of-syllabus' already!

First you have, a mother of an extremely energetic and attention-seeking toddler. Multiply that with the learning cells, in a completely dysfunctional state from a 12 year disuse. Compound that with the fact that you set only 3 months to finish an entire year's syllabus. End-result: A shivering exam taker, exactly similar to an egg on pointed heels... That would have described me very well, but for the fact that I was finally getting the education of my life.

Let me tell you, Education on Education is one of those really quaint things... like thinking about thinking or laughing about laughing... A unique human ability. It was an extremely fun-filled 3 months as I discovered so many things about learning, society, politics, economics... just to find I barely scraped the molecule on the tip of the iceberg. There is an ocean out there and education, on anything under the sun, should just enlighten you on your ignorance and motivate you in your never-ending search for more. I feel so lucky to have been exposed to such good material, designed in such a way, to touch the hearts of ones who truly seek. My heartfelt gratitude to the entire M.A(Education) course designing team of IGNOU. The text-books penned by these various professors and doctors of education have at last pointed me in the direction of so many worth-while things to know and seek.

There was an oft-repeated phrase in the books, which was "Nothing can be taught and everything can be learnt". This degree was a case in point. Years of attending teacher taught engineering classes drew a complete blank from me. But my few months of self-explorations have opened up neural pathways upstairs, that I knew not, existed.

This is not to say, it was one perfect walk on rose-buds. There were times I said "I can't do this". Building too much pressure inside. I kept faltering again and again. The self-imposed deadline drew near and the doubts grew darker and darker. If this is the case of someone who has finally discovered something to her liking and enjoying knowing about that, I see the implications of exams that have to be taken and tests that have to be cleared, with no thought about interest or aptitude.

In this journey of learning on learning, I discovered some worthwhile strategies. The unshakeable 'top of the chart' in this regard is mind-maps. This is the one single thing that kept this egg from cracking. After some three subjects of linear learning, I realized that I was not going to cover even half the distance on this route. So, I discovered and customized mind-maps for studying. To describe mind-maps for studying, it's similar to taking a space-ship out-there and taking a cosmic view of your subjects (answers to questions like 'why on earth am I doing this?' , 'what is the point of my studying this degree, this course?') then drop-down to a sky-view and take in the forest ('the links between my subjects, the over-all chemistry of the syllabus'), then a glide-down a parachute to glance the entire tree at close quarters (all about individual subject) and freeze there, see the branches (all those long lessons and units) and just another drop to see where the branches are going (sub-sections and the concepts). If you plan ahead and are able to see the leaves and leaflets (the basic atomic ideas of each concept), then you can truly call yourselves the masters of this art of studying. I discovered that 'zoom out-zoom in' mind-mapping was ultimate fun. Your mind would seriously thank you for not sitting in the first paragraph of the first lesson of the first subject and repeating the first line in loops till the exam bell gongs.

As I was sitting there, on the last day of the exams, with hands aching, I thanked that I had the support and the sense to see that however hard it seemed, how much ever pressure I built on, these exams were just some man-made obstacles, that mattered not in how you crossed them but just that you crossed them.

This is dedicated to every student who is sitting there, on the eve of the exams, with some pencils to drive up the nostrils, a large box of anti-malarial drugs, looking heatedly at the loose electric cables or looking down atop mobile towers... Throw it, Stop looking and see not the miniscule moment of the exam ahead but deep inside for all that you are and can be. Pain, Stress, Exams come and go... You are forever, in your life.


  1. Wow, that is really a very sensational essay ma'am. Loved the concept of mind-maps. I really agree with you on the stress these exams are creating. All this stress for just a three hour exam. Especially when that three hour exam's grade has the potential to judge if you are a competitive and worthy student or a dull and drab student. And we students really fail to understand most of the time why we took up engineering. We feel like we are preparing for that three hour exam from the beginning of the semester, failing to truly love and enjoy that subject and gain some knowledge about it.

    Anyways, maybe this mind-map would help us students to re-ignite the passion for our course. Who knows? :) Maybe we might try to learn something useful and discard the examination point of view to all courses.

  2. wow! a great post to read, when I'm about to start the preparation for my university exams! ;-) I just realized I've been doing this mind-mapping without actually knowing it! Thank u for the post! :-)

  3. @swathy, Thanks for your comments. I do wish every student approaches education with passion. Although, it is hard, given the fact that our interests and aptitudes are not clearly understood before selecting courses/careers. I wish you success in your attempts to love engineering.

    @Phoenix, Thanks for your comments. Being a medico, I appreciate the fact that you take time to blog. Most of the medical students I know have no time to even look up from their Robbins. :-) Wish you success.