Ok, so you’re undertaking an exam or you’ve just finished the exam process and you think to yourself, ‘Except for the piece of paper, what is this exam really doing for me?’ You would be surprised to learn, taking an exam (and this isn’t just the act of writing the exam we are talking about here, but the preparation and everything going along with it!) we are actually setting ourselves up for many things in life, our futures and our future careers. You’re probably sitting back and thinking ‘What is he talking about? But just hear me out. There is so much more to undertaking exams then just getting a good grade.

We all need to learn how to organise ourselves and to have effective time management. So, for the first skill we have picked up when studying for exams, is organization. Whether it be sorting out your notes, creating an effective study plan or prioritising our study effectively so we can give the most time to the areas that need the most study, we are creating a skill within which will provide us with an excellent foundation for our careers. Employers want to see that you can take on different tasks simultaneously and they want to know that you are giving priority to the most urgent before you move on to tasks that are less urgent.

Employers also want to know they can rely on an employee to work independently, without continuous micro-managing…. I like to include resourcefulness too. Mainly this is because it always takes a certain amount of independence in one’s character to be resourceful. Studying for exams allows your independence to thrive because you tend to mostly study on your own. You can be part of a study group and this is excellent at improving your skills at working within a team, but ultimately, you need to be able to work independent of the group also. You know what you have already retained, and you know what you still need work on. Do you see what I am trying to illustrate here? You are the only one that knows where you stand and you need to be resourceful when it come to seeking out the answers to you rquestions and you have to be able to do this before the deadline!  In this case the deadline is the exam date, but in the real world, the deadline could be the date tax forms are meant to be submitted or to date of a presentation you have to give the board of the company. Like an exam, you have to be prepared and you have to take ownership for your work.

This is another area the exam process helps you with because it isn’t going to be easy. Life is not always an easy endeavour, and either are exams! Sometimes you might even want to walk away from the whole thing and do something else. All I have to say about this though, is you have come too far to just pack it in!  If you look back at the work you have put into this qualification, ask yourself have you invested too much to stop everything now? Even if you feel like you are going to fail and I have felt this way in the past, but you need to see it through to the end. I will talk about learning how to except failure in a moment, but right now I want to come upon what I feel is the biggest lesson we learn from the exam process – learning to just tough it out.  What is the old expression? ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going!’ That is what I am talking about here.

As human beings, we have an incredible will to move on, no matter what the costs. I think the reason we can push ourselves even when we want to quit, is because of one thing: the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  We want to be rewarded!  This may sound selfish, but it isn’t.  Our reward for finishing the exam is ultimately a passing grade and hopefully moving on to employment or even moving further in our studies or for many more reasons (what I call CORE motivations). This is goal setting even if we don’t realise it. The same is true when we are in employment, we work towards a goal and that can be a promotion, or it can be a desire to one day run your own business. Learning to tough it out is the way we made it to our exam, to sit a promotion interview or go to the bank and get the business loan you need to start your own business. Unfortunately, we sometimes fall short of that goal and we need to brush ourselves off and get back in the race. There is a very important lesson we need to take out of this though, was it just a setback? We need to take stock of the experience. We need to look at the events that brought us to this point and consider what we have learned from the experience.  This goes back to being independent and resourceful. That’s right, life isn’t just a list of independent points, everything is connected, which leads me to the next point…. pressure.

Anyone who has undertaken an exam knows about the pressure.  We put pressure on ourselve sand we also receive added pressure from those around us.  We are all forced in one way or another to be able to deal with this pressure, even when it can sometimes feel unbearable.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t end when we pass the exam, life is full of pressure from work and at home.  One of the ways that we have learned to deal with this pressure is to prioritise our work and in a lot of cases, becoming self-aware.  Self-aware can be a big part in handling the pressure because again, we are the only one who really knowwhere we stand; how much pressure we can really handle before it becomes too much.  This is why prioritising and making a reasonable study plan are very important to the whole process.  We are all aware we need an amount of pressure to push us through to a deadline and this is the same whether you are preparing for an exam or working to a deadline at work or decorating the nursery before the baby arrives!

Now I know I have mentioned it a few times but I haven’t related it how failure in exams may set you up for life.  Anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock has experienced failure. It is inevitable, but we can’t let this stop us.  If we fail an exam, we need to take a look a twhat we did wrong and we also need to look at what we did right! It takes along time, (sometimes longer then we realise) to let ourselves be ok with the idea of failure. But we ultimately do sit back, learn from our mistakes and try again.  Sometimes, we go for a promotion and we are turned down. Don’t get me wrong, it stings, and it is infuriating, but if we let it engulf us, there is no turning back.  We learn what we did or did not do in order to get the promotion and we try again the next time one comes up.  Even better, being turned down for promotioncan spur us on to something else. Failure doesn’t always lead to just trying again, it can lead to moving on to another employer or even taking the leap into self-employment.  Here is where the link with independence and resourcefulness comes up again – can you see how exams set you up for life?  If is truly amazing how we use these kinds of skills every day of our life. Sometimes it is just the experience and not just the content that makes us who we are.

When we consider the idea of promotion or moving on to self-employment or even something like buying your first house as an investment towards one day getting a bigger house, we are thinking about our long-term goals.  Isn’t that why we take on the task of completing our exams in the first place? We are looking to the future. We are thinking to ourselves; I need to do this exam to be able to do the next exam and so on because by doing the full range of exams, you will get this job and progress to this job… well, you get the picture.

There are breaks in the road we are traveling on and we learn to cope with the pressure they create and push through to the end.  Each step of the way is a learning process and one way we grow is by keeping our attention on what is important.  It is hard and in the age of the internet, Netflix, social media and 24-hour news, our attention can run a little thin. When we study for exams, we learn to retain the important bits while ignoring the less important bits. This allows us to learn from the world around us and use that information to be a well-rounded person. Especially at this time, as the world is shrinking, we need to be able to retain information that is not only vital for your career, but where your career fits within the global marketplace. We think that learning ends when you leave full time education, but the same skills you needed to retain and understand information never stop being necessary.

This brings me to the final point, our ability to be self-aware and not fearing being measured. In the modern world everyone talks at great lengths about being self-aware and knowing your strengths. These skills are formed throughout the whole process of learning, but what we haven’t talked about is being measured.  When we get a score on an exam, this is your measure for that exam. Within your student career, you are measured according to your skills and this does not stop when we enter the working world. We learn to use it as feedback on how to improve, where our strengths lie and this helps us deal with the pressure and also goes back to our independence and resourcefulness.  It helps us prioritise and dealing with failure… They really are all linked, aren’t they!

See….. there is a reasons for the madness of exams after all!

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