June 20, 2009

Exam stress


Does anyone else who has been out of school for years still suffer from nightmares related to The Exam For Which You Haven't Prepared? I would far rather dream about being chased by evil, fire-breathing, infectious-disease-carrying, smelly zombies every night than have the exam nightmare ever again. It's just too real. Real, that is, in my head. The exam is always for a course I've never taken, on a campus I've never seen, with instructors I've never met. And yet it scares the bejeezus out of me and I wake up in a cold sweat, feeling like I've just failed the most crucial test of my life.


I have certainly experienced exam jitters in my day, and I have shown up for more than one test feeling inadequately prepared, but the outcome has never been so grim as to justify these continuing nightmares. In fact, I usually excelled at school, nerd that I was. The one vivid memory I have of giving up on a test halfway through makes me laugh rather than cringe. It was for a third-year East Asian Studies course at university. I had been too busy cramming for other mid-terms to devote sufficient time to this one. I came across a question regarding the I Ching, also known as the Book of Changes. I was asked to name the other Chinese classics. I remember sitting there, in the second row of desks, thinking, "Book of.... what? I have no idea. Book of... matches. Hee hee. Yeah, Book of Matches." I wrote that down. Next I wrote The Book of Love, the Book of Cookies (the special feature at a local bakery which was being widely advertised on radio in those days), Guinness Book of Records, Book of the Month Club... any goofy thing I could come up with.


Short on knowledge and even shorter on sleep, I began to regard my silly answer as terribly amusing. I tried to suppress my snickering. Naturally, it grew from snickering to chuckling to guffawing, all internal, and then it burst out of me in the form of a very loud snort. Typical. Still shaking with laughter, I packed up my things, handed in my test, and left the room.


Thanks to that experience, I'm a firm believer that sleep deprivation and exam stress can lead to hilarity. Just have a look at these prime examples of the toll taken by exam stress.


6 comments:

Zombie Mom said...

I totally have the unprepared exam dream, right up there with the cannot lift my feet while running a race dream....

I am anxiety queen.

Jenny Harvey said...

As someone who was never prepared for exams, my reality was the nightmare.
My best example was a quantum physics paper at uni, where not only had I not revised but I had stopped turning up for lectures after the first couple. I feel my 14% score on that exam gained by a combination of waffle and guessing to be my life's greatest acheivement

Rob K said...

I wish I had the nerve to write some of these responses when I was in Catholic school--especially the first one.

The nuns would have keeled right over.

Heather said...

OMG I love you! LOL

ryssee said...

I hate that nightmare! Sometimes it evolves into an entire class that I never attended and they've already given me my degree, so I'm afraid I have to go back and re-take the class!
Love your story, that is so funny.

noelle. said...

I feel sorry for Tracey.