Friday, May 14, 2010

Exam Day -- jcarolek

I recall as a youngster never really being too worried about exams.  Now this is not to imply I was sure I would do well on them or that I was some sort of genius or other -- quite the contrary.  No, I just was never too hung up on the concept of cramming a lot of information into my head for the purpose of regurgitation onto paper as the goal of an education.  If the knowledge I was gaining wasn't sufficient, and my understanding thereof wasn't accurate, no pressure of the exam would change those facts.  No, I always imagined exams were tools to allow ME to determine my actual level of knowledge, or at least my alignment with the teacher's understanding of the material.

So, against the recommendations of parents, teachers and such, I would not "cram" before an exam.  I either knew the material, or I didn't.  And even if I WERE successful in cramming all of those notes into my brain for the necessary time required to allow leakage onto the exam paper, once that flow started it almost always left my brain entirely.  So, cramming was pretty much a guarantee I would not retain the information.

My preferred method was to listen, take notes, ask questions and verify my understanding as I went along.  Before the exam, a simple read-through of the material to be covered helped me define boundaries, and, if there WAS still something I wanted clarification on, I could research the answer.  That was "back in the day..."  Back then the research of such last minute tidbits was constrained by the availability of resources...pretty much, if the answer wasn't in the required textbook, I had the option of consulting the Britannica Encyclopedia, or asking my parents....  Since asking my parents a question on subject matter the night before a big exam would typically bring on lectures of being better prepared, I generally opted for Britannica....

Things are quite different today.  Armed with my BA and MS degrees and many years of absence from the classrooms, I find myself, over 50 and trying to learn as if I were still 15.  I am frustrated by the presentation of the materials in the classes offered and required for  becoming "certified" in technical areas, and yet these certifications are critical to my employment stability.

Hence, I dutifully attend the classes, take my notes, and, with 4 long days of class and equally long nights of completing the assignments, I am faced this morning with the exam.  Now, under NO circumstances would I consider anyone who has just been introduced to this subject matter to be competent on the material four days later.  It would seem the goal is to effectively cram the information into my head, successfully regurgitate it on paper within the 2-hour time constraint, and then, MAYBE, revisit the material in the weeks to come, allowing myself the opportunity to actually LEARN the material.

The upside down approach to learning, I have discovered, leaves me with something I simply do not recall from my youth... test anxiety.  Well, so I also discover the more I cram, the more anxiety I experience... there is just something that nature mandates in these situations.... you simply cannot teach an old dog new tricks.

So this morning, after spending the first waking hours trying to cram this stuff into my resistant brain, I decided the better approach was to simply put it away.  The exam will start whether I am prepared or not.  I will take the exam whether I am prepared or not. And I will either pass or fail.  None of these things change the fact that my competent UNDERSTANDING of the material will occur, oh, I dunno, maybe a month or two down the road....

And with that, I suppose I should pack up my belongings, check out of the hotel and head over to the pre-exam "Q&A" session to be held during the 30 minutes immediately prior to the exam..... I'm sure I can confuse myself just a little further if I can add someone else's confusion to my own....

Wish me luck!

1 comment:

mixednut555 said...

I hope we will get the results of your test! Good luck. I'm sure you have retained and learned more than you realize.