The more I tried to learn and revise in the morning the more I realised none of it was staying in, and the anxiety started to make me feel physically ill. The closer it got to the 2pm time for the exam the worse I felt, until even trying to think about anything I was supposed to have learned made me nauseous. When I was finally seated in the exam room my anxiety was so high that I thought I was going to burst into tears.
“You need to relax” I told myself. So I took the time I had before the exam started to bring myself back off the ceiling. I sat upright with my back straight, rested my hands palm up on the table in front of me, closed my eyes, and focused on breathing calmly and deeply.
Ten minutes later I felt a bit more in control so I decided to focus my mind ready for the task at hand. For five minutes, still with my eyes closed, I did a series of mental challenges from simple math to trivia, to visual puzzles (the tower of Hanoi). My time to start was upon me but I wasn’t quite ready so I decided to spend another five minutes visualising what I knew. I imagined a line of three dimensional display in front of me that I could manipulate with my hands. I visualised four mind maps, one for each of the theorist pairs I had revised, each starting at a point in front of me and extending away. One by one I pulled them front and centre and watched them expand with the facts that I had learned. I did this in a very fleeting way so that I could put facts onto branches without needing to actually remember what the facts were. This allowed me to be very quick.
“Ok, Goldstein and Rogers.” my hands moved in front of me as I moved things around and not for the first time I was glad I was seated in a room by myself. The map expanded and I felt confident. I know this stuff better than I thought, if this comes up I can nail this exam! Next Catell and Eysenck. My blog post on this made great revision and unlike almost everyone else on my course I find Trait psychology really interesting. Again I was confident with this pair, I’ve done some great extra reading for them and got some good quotes memorised. Hell if both these two pairs come up I reckon I could score an A*.
“Ok, number three. Klein and Bowlby. Well Bowlby I know fairly well, and Klein…oh god. Oh god. What the hell was Klein’s Object-Relations theory?”
It was dawning on me that I didn’t understand or know this pair as well as I thought. Probably thanks to skipping over it in revision under the belief that I already knew it.
“it’s ok. Keep calm. Lets just look at the questions and see what we’ve got. Scan down…Goldstein and Rogers? Crap, no. There goes the ace up my sleeve. Cattell and Eysenck? Oh shit. That’s not there either. ‘Compare and contrast Melanie Klein’s Object Relations Theory and John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory’, there it is. Ok I’ll have to scrape an answer for that. Next…’Compare and contrast Julian Rotter’s Social Learning Theory with Bandura’s Social-Cognitive Theory’, ok I can tackle that. I’ll write about…about…OH MY GOD! I CAN’T REMEMBER A SINGLE THING ABOUT THESE THEORIES!”
It was everyone’s worst nightmare – I saw the question and my mind went completely blank. I couldn’t remember anything about either theory, let alone how they compared. It was literally as if I had never heard of them before. I have never felt so bad in an exam before.
In the end I managed to scrape a page or two of very poorly written unstructured waffle that I have a feeling said the same thing in three different ways. By the time the invigilator took my answer booklet at the end of the exam I was barely holding on to not breaking down completely.
Today has seriously knocked my confidence and upset me. I am most upset because I know this is my fault and I have let myself down. I hold myself to high standards, and anything less than me being on track for a First class degree is simply not good enough in my eyes. Everyone is right, I need to put these feelings aside and get on with the next task – revising for my Developmental Psychology exam on Friday. And I will. But tonight I will allow myself to feel this. I will let the exhaustion take hold and sleep until I am rested, because if I don’t allow myself this release I will be a wreck no matter how hard I try to compartmentalise. And I really am exhausted right now, physically and mentally drained.
Tomorrow I will be back in the saddle revising for the exam that almost the entire course is dreading.