May 21

Seeing revision as a mountain can be very helpful

At some point, approaching exams season, I have heard students talk about the mountain they have to climb to get their revision done. It is probably not helpful to feel this way when exams are just ahead, but seeing revision as a mountain might be more helpful than you would imagine. It all depends on how we respond.

By now, many will have finished taking exams for this year, but those taking exams next summer should really start to think about their revision already. The best revision in done in small amounts, regularly, throughout the course.

Studying is rather like hill walking. Success in both depends, above everything else, on knowing your destination, knowing honestly where you are at any time and taking the step in front of you with understanding. Guides and companions along the way can point you toward your chosen destination and they can help you to make sure you have the time, energy and resources to get there. However, the joy is that it is only you who can take the steps, which means the eventual success will be entirely yours.

Those who have climbed hills know that we should not expect to feel at our best during every part of the trek. At some points we will feel tired; at times it will be difficult to get any sense of how far we have climbed or how far is left to go; sometimes we may even wonder why we ever began. We tend not to respond at our best when we feel like this: sometimes even turning on our companions or questioning our guides and the route they advised. However, we can manage our responses better if remember that this can sometimes happen when the going gets tough.

Sometimes, hillwalkers climb hard towards a peak only to realise, as they approach, that the actual summit lies, dispiritingly, far beyond it. It can become overwhelming to try to imagine what it would take to reach the top.

However, there is always a way forward. Even at the most difficult times, it is always possible to imagine taking just the next step ahead. Those who can keep their focus on their next steps will be able to keep going. Those who look obsessively at the summit often misstep on the way or delay too long before moving forward. Remember the summit, so you keep a sense of purpose in your steps, but keep your focus on making each step.

Sometimes I have known students worry so much about grades that they stop making any progress toward their goals. The distance you are from your goal matters less than whether you can confidently take the step in front of you.

Yes, there will be a mountain of revision to climb before any exam, but start as early as you can, keeping going, steadily and purposefully.

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