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The Revise Better Series: Being host of the Tracklist for the Dean’s List show on IIUM.FM for the past semester has taught me a couple of things about what makes certain students excel. Since it’s Revision Week once again for IIUM students, in this series I will share some of the studying patterns I found in Dean’s List students over the next few days. I hope they’ll benefit, insyaAllah.

Today’s Pattern: Flee from Exam Day Anxiety

Exam Day Anxiety, henceforth known as EDA, is a sickness that a lot of students face. Signs of being infected by EDA would include (but not withstanding):

  • rapid heart movement,
  • bouts of breathlessness,
  • not being able to feel your legs,
  • migraine,
  • an irrational extreme worry of suddenly losing one’s memory,
  • an immense, overwhelming and inescapable feeling of doom,
  • having to go to the toilet an exaggerated number of times, or
  • an overall tendency to want to go on holiday or get things over and done with because your poor heart cannot take it anymore.

Even the best of students face EDA, so if you fall into any of the above categories, don’t worry – you’re normal :)

Thankfully, there are remedies for EDA that have been tested and proven which I will share in this article, but first let us look to the root of EDA. I believe that EDA stems from four issues:

  1. Knowing that you have not given your best to prepare for the examination,
  2. The lack of tawakkul (reliance upon Allah SWT’s plans)
  3. Not being able to put one’s self in the right state of mind
  4. A combination of points 2 and 3.

As it is revision week and there’s still time to prepare, I believe that Issue #1 should not be a problem for you, especially since you now know how to create A-Grade notes and how to use creative memorization techniques (right? hehe). Implement the tips shared in the articles above and insyaAllah, you’re good to go.

As for those who are facing EDA due to the lack of tawakkul, or not being able to put yourself in the right state of mind, or a combination of the two, then this collection of remedies is written especially for you.

May all of us benefit, insyaAllah :)

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Remedy 1: Recognize that knowledge and understanding reside with Allah

If you have planted your seeds and watered and nurtured them, then realize that the growth of a seedling is not from you or your actions, but from Allah SWT in His command for the seedling to grow. Some farmers tend to their farm in the best way possible but get little crop, while others who might not use the best technology available are able to get a good yield.

Such is the nature of knowledge.

Remind yourself time and again that knowledge and understanding is a gift from Allah SWT, and it is up to Him whether or not to give it to you. Your effort through attending classes, making notes, and revising, are your ikhtiar, while the fruits of that effort is given only by the mercy of Allah SWT.

Once you realize this, then you will understand that all you can do is to give your best, and then with Allah, you leave the rest. Your surrender to Him will be your sanctuary, the best of all remedies.

Remedy 2: Purify your outer state and your inner state

Before making your way to the exam hall, make wudhu’ and perform your prayers (fardh or sunnah, depending on the time). Knowledge is light from Allah SWT, so it’s best to prepare yourself to better receive that light.

Also, wudhu’ and prayer, when done in khusyoo’, are natural remedies of wordly anxieties. When a person is angry or upset, he is asked to make wudhu’ to calm himself down. When a person is in prayer, he leaves the world behind and travels to meet his Rabb Who handles all his affairs for him.

So if His Rabb handles all his affairs for Him, the what’s left to worry about? ;)

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Remedy 3: Make du’a, for du’a is the weapon of the believer

Before and during Exam Day, make lots and lots of du’a. And not to forget, start requesting for more du’a!

Call your parents, sms your lecturers and asatizah, whatsapp your close friends – get them all to make a small du’a for your success, because it might just be that any of their du’a (especially your parents’ and teachers’) are more mustajab then yours.

And in all these du’as, have a firm unwavering believe that Allah SWT never turns down the du’a of the believers. Understand that you and others being able to make du’a for you is only because He wills for you to make du’a. And from that, understand that He only wills good for the believer.

Remedy 4: Make your preparations the night before

Nothing is more anxiety-creating than waking up late and finding yourself not ready to get to the exam hall, or getting into the exam hall and realizing that you didn’t bring the things you need.

The night before the exams, take five minutes to take stock of your inventory (5 pens? Check. Matric card? Check. Heart full of tawakkul? Check.). Prepare your outfit, pack your bags, and do a second stock-take.

EDA is more prone to happen especially on the morning of the paper, so do yourself a favour and remove all the small tasks that can lead to some form of anxiety the night before.

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Remedy 5: Create your own exam day routines

Top sportsmen all have their own pre-competition routines to get them “in the zone”. Michael Phelps, the most successful Olympic athlete to date, has a series of routines he likes to follow just before diving into the pool, including meditating, listening to music and visualizing.

Having routines gives your body and mind pre-empts your body and mind to prepare for a certain action and to react accordingly. Furthermore, having routines removes the need to think about what to do, hence leaving more space for a clearer mind.

Your routine is personal to yourself, and should be aimed at getting you “in the zone”. For some people, it might be to take a light jog, followed by breakfast while listening to Mozart. For others, it might be reciting some qasidah and performing solat hajat. And for some really special people, it might be doing maths equations.

Get a routine, and perform it every time before your exams.

Remedy 6: Avoid pre-exam and post-exam discussions

Last minute pre-exam discussions are prone to make you panic when you realize that you don’t know this or that. This results in last minute scrambles for answers, extreme stress, and plants seeds of doubt in yourself.

Avoid.at.all.costs.

Remember, the goal here is to flee from anxiety and to embrace calm and focus. I personally put on headphones, sit in a corner and go through my cheat sheet and base notes one last time before I enter the hall.

Also, avoid post-exam discussions. While it is tempting to find out if your answers are right or wrong, know that when you discuss after doing a paper, you are setting yourself up for one of two outcomes:

  1. Your answers are right, in which case ok good for you yay!
  2. Your answers are wrong, which sucks, and which will leave you depressed for the entire day and jeopardize the other papers you will have to do the next few days.

Avoid.at.all.costs.

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Remedy 7: Reach the exam hall early

Rushing = breathless + not focused + not calm + worry = SUPER ADE

Remedy 8: Keep calm and make zikr

When you’re slowly making your way to the exam hall, look around you, breathe in the fresh air, and smile to the sky, to the trees, to the birds and to the cat who has been eyeing you lazily.

Make zikr, and imagine them making zikr with you (which they are). Imagine them all cheering for you, wanting you to succeed because you’re a student of knowledge, and feel all these love from the creations of Allah SWT just embracing you.

Know that if Allah SWT is with you, then all of creation is with you, and no harm can come to you if He does not will it to.

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Remedy 9: Use the first 5-10 minutes after the paper has begun to make zikr, selawat and du’a

When the invigilator says “You may begin!”, look around and notice that everyone is scrambling to flip over their papers and read the questions. Their minds are occupied with trying to make sense of questions, recall answers, and brainstorming solutions.

You, however, recognize that less students in the hall are actually making du’a at this time, and that the “phone lines are clear”. Take the opportunity to raise your hands, and dial your Maker.

Make zikr, recite some selawat and du’a, purify your intentions and remind yourself of remedy #1, that you have done your best and it is time for Allah to handle the rest. With the basmalah, uncap your pen, and only now should you begin.

Remedy 10: Remind yourself that exams are not the be-all, end-all

Exams are not everything, and exams are certainly not the measure of intelligence or success. Many people before you have succeeded in life without excelling in exams, or even without having a degree.

While succeeding in examinations is a stepping stone to success, it is not the only stepping stone. Many other routes and opportunities await out there for those who seek them.

So take some pressure off yourself, just give it your best, and leave Allah SWT to do the rest. If the results are good, Alhamdulillah. If the results are not that good, Alhamdulillah, Allah SWT knows what best for you in this dunya and the next :)

To sum up, the gist of this article is that the best remedy for Exam Day Anxiety is this:

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In fact, this concept applies to everything you do in your life, from your academic endeavours, to business pursuits, or to raising children. Our role as man is not to mitigate outcomes, but to do the best that we can in every situation.

When we surrender outcomes to Allah SWT, we leave Him to decide what is best for us, knowing that He knows better about us than ourselves. When our focus is on what we can give, and have firm faith that Allah SWT will provide for us, we remove the burden of providing for ourselves.

When we do our best and let Allah do the rest, insyaAllah there will be no worries and anxieties to deal with in every trial, every exam, and every test, insyaAllah :)

This article thus concludes my three-part Revise Better series, and I hope the reminders have benefitted myself and you in one way or another, biiznillah. All the best for your exams, and I pray that Allah SWT open our hearts to receive the light of knowledge and understanding, and make things easy for us.

Should you have any other questions, feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me an e-mail. I’ll be more than glad to help, insyaAllah.

Bit taufiq wan najjah!

Additional Resources

  1. How to create A-Grade notes
  2. How to use creative memorization techniques