The glorious and triumphant return of now-19 year old Blogger, the revival of a once-grand and dare I say influential webspace that produced daily content, and the crippling anxiety of a young woman who no longer has any time or motivation to write, and feels like any ability she had acquired in the past through repetition and sheer will alone is now slowly slipping out of her grasp. Brief history of the Blog and Blogger can be found here.

Here be personal journal entries, observations, slices of life, questions and conclusions, as well as exploration of social and political topics seen through the lens of a Malaysian Muslim, feminist, lesbian, Marxist, and horse enthusiast.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Eleventh Hour

I made something similar last year, I think, and it was called Guide To Surviving Exams Week but since this is way more (if only just a teeny tiny bit more) important than regular school examinations, I have better advice! But first, I'd just to say something to my friends who were in 2H and 2G last year and 3E and 3F this year.

I want to start off by saying how ridiculous the term cream of the crop is. It is demeaning to those in other classes, as well as adds extra pressure, whenever teachers insist we get all the A's because that's what computers and statistics have predicted for us and sometimes I can't help but wonder whether they truly want us to get those straight A's or whether it's just for the sake of their jobs. For the sake of them not feeling as if they have failed us as teachers, feeling as if they have not failed as teachers period. Last year's exam scores for PMR were apparently through the roof good and based on the results for trials, we have not only failed to meet the expectations of the teachers and the school board, we have failed tremendously.

I read some of the things you guys have written, listened to some of the things you've said. For those who managed to wrangle the elusive 8A's for trials (and I know there weren't many), I'd like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to you guys because I'm not a teacher, nor am I a parent, or an older or younger friend or sibling. I went through those stupid trials too and I've achieved what you have. And at this point, I'd like to dismiss the distinctions of marks and just focus on your grades, because the PMR results slip will only contain your grades. I know the stress of thinking you're going to get a B (Friday night sob fest regarding History), the anticipation of getting the results of something you know you've done well in (BM!) and the utter joy and happiness that strikes you like lightning when you can just sit there and say, "I got all A's." So I'm neither jealous, nor have I ever been, of you guys because how can I be unhappy about success? And success garnered by my friends, at that.

For those of you who hadn't managed that, but came pretty close to or heck, you just belonged/belong to those four classes I mentioned up there, I would like to say congratulations, too. Because they don't randomly plop you in a good class. They really don't. And there were disagreements as to which of the two classes were better but, hello, I think it's fair to say that we're both awesome. I can never imagine myself belonging to 3E and I think the same can be said for those in that class because like it or not, I hold my classmates in high regard (some higher than others but still). So I respect you guys and what you have accomplished. If you feel like you've failed to meet your expectations this year, just know that you're in these two classes for a reason and it's never ever too late to spit on those shoes and buckle up.

There are so many things that can stop you from acing your PMR but the main thing, as is so often said, is yourself. So I realize how this might come off, me writing this while I should be studying, but I have a half an hour break, so sue me. And anyways most of you guys probably won't read this because you sure have better things to do than wonder around the blogosphere!

Good luck, friends, and as many times as I can say I have faith in you, I know not all of you guys can possibly meet your expectations. These things are scary, and so I've written up some do's and don't's, because that's the sort of friend I am.

Studying Tips
  • You should know by now the hours at which you are at your prime. It's different for everyone, that's why school's so stupid because not everyone can concentrate on learning during those six hour blocks. But it's a standardized exam! So everything is standardized! Except! For your studying methods. Remember those guys who gave you studying tips based on which type of learner you are? Audio, visual and kinesthetic? Well, forget about them. Because there are more than just those three aspects of learning to worry about. It's, jokes aside and quite seriously, all about you, you, you. It's the eleventh hour, as my title subtly implies, and by now everything should be plain as day obvious for you. If you're a morning person and that's your prime studying hour, then by George, that's when you should pick up those books and study. But being the eleventh hour and all, you're thinking it's not enough to just study during your prime hours, right? So pick a subject you know you need to study for, a subject that you feel you need all the energy and attention to understand and be able to focus all of your thoughts on and study that during your prime hour. The rest of the time, fill it in with little bits and pieces of everything else. I find that pitting a heavy subject versus a heavy subject only gives me a headache, so I study History with Maths, Islamic Studies with KH, BM with Science. Go with what works for you.
  • Blocks-of-time method. Like that one weekend where I spent two hours studying and gave myself an hour's rest in between. It worked for the entire weekend and well, wasn't that a miracle? Work with how you want it but I think that studying continuously is kind of stupid, not to mention it takes its toll on your brains, so everyone needs a rest! All work, no play, that sort of thing.
  • Speaking of all work, no play makes Jack a dumb boy: if you have a hobby, don't put it on the back burner just because it's exams season. I know your parents won't allow you that much time on the computer or television but no time at all? That sounds stupid. Quitting cold turkey has never done anyone any favors and plus, studying all the time seems like a stressing thing to do. What are you supposed to do with your life if you don't have a stress reliever? Of course, you can't spend as much time on your hobby or past time as you did when it wasn't such an important or crucial time; minimize your online efforts! Watch one movie a day instead of four! When it's eleven forty-five (a.k.a. a mere two or three days till the exams), try to switch from taking a break to do something you enjoy to taking a break to just relax and do some religious stuff. Pray, read whatever religious texts you subscribe to, sit outside and just look at the trees or something. It's better for your brain and for your qi than going online.
  • Move around. Sitting stationary will not only give you the pins and needles, you'll get bored of the position, the lighting, the sense and smell of the room. So move around. I'm sure your house has more than one room to it. Pick another spot, a different spot, but one with equally good lighting and peace and quiet and just pick up where you left off. 
  • Call a friend when you've had too much of studying. Call a boyfriend, girlfriend, aunt, uncle, cousin, whatever, and just talk aimlessly for a while. You have to pay for it in money, of course, but I've found that when you've had enough, you really have had enough and all you need sometimes to counter that feeling of being sick of studying is hearing another person's voice. Maybe make an alliance with a friend so you could call each other if it gets too heavy. 
  • Sometimes you might feel totally and utterly unprepared and you might have moments, while you're studying, in which you feel really pressured and bound for failure. Cry. This makes me feel better all the time.
  • If you feel sleepy, either pray (for Muslims) (or if you have prayed, just take the wudu') or take a shower.
  • You know how some people insist that it's really, really better for you to do exercises instead of studying? Or how some other people insist the opposite, that it's better to memorize instead of doing exercises? Turn a deaf ear. Do what you feel like doing and what's worked best for you so far. But if what you've been doing so far hasn't been fruitful then, well, you should've changed your war strategy months ahead.
  • On the topic of memorizing versus understanding, since we're talking about a nationwide standardized exam here, do both. Just for kicks.
  • Studying language is difficult but I've found that it's a combination of everything that works best for me: reading magazines/stories/newspapers/sample essays, doing exercises, listening to teacher in class and reading up on grammar.
  • Maths is important. Don't ever think that it's okay to coast by on just knowing how to do something. Do exercises. Do more. Do all the exercises. And then do some more.
  • I think that about covers my studying tips but here's one to end it all: don't make to-do lists if you cannot follow through on them. Just do.
Oh, My God, It's PMR! Tips
  • I've come to realize that there are two groups of people: the ones who say it's just PMR and it's totally not all that important versus the ones who keep breathing down your neck, placing you on house arrest and banning you from social contact with the outside world. Since it doesn't hurt to get an A, how about you just forget about all the pressure while simultaneously working hard towards achieving excellence?
  • Go stationery shopping! I know I said don't make to-do lists, but make a stationery checklist to make sure you have everything you need. There's nothing worst than going to the exam hall and realizing that you didn't sharpen your pencils!
  • I know people say you should get enough sleep and there has been countless survivor stories of people who underwent PMR without proper sleep anyways but I think sleep is pretty important. I mean, do you know how hard it is to try to answer questions as a zombie? We're not meant to do that, I think. Sleeping makes our minds less fuzzy and it gives us a rest so there really, truly, without a doubt, is no use for an all nighter the night before PMR.
  • Showering in the mornings will help you wake up so I highly suggest that!
  • Some people really don't eat breakfast in the morning. Do whatever you want as long as you're not on an unhealthy diet and your stomach doesn't rumble during the exams. As an aside: take good care of your health. Like, at all times, but since you could possibly die from crying your eyes out if you fail something as simple-sounding as PMR, I think it's best to pay extra special attention to your health during the weeks leading up to it.
  • Take a pee (or a number two, if you're so inclined) before your exam starts!
  • I don't know what exactly last minute cramming does for different sorts of people. Some people stomach it better than others. Some other people might need some time and space to let the information they've digested simmer down and stick for a bit. Different strokes. 
  • I've said a lot of things about how to answer questions but really, it's up to you. Ever heard of play to your strengths? All I know is that you've got to keep a calm head during subjective questions and always, always, always recheck your sentence structure. For Science II, you could lose marks just because you happen to not make any sense on paper as you thought you did in your head. Maths II is somewhat of a tricky one since for some people, the time given simply isn't enough, but from doing exercises and stuff in Pn Mashitah's class, I am positive that with enough practice, the time given is more than enough so recheck, recheck, recheck! There should be no regrets for Maths. For the language papers, I can't stress this enough, but try your best. It might seem like a good idea to just give up after you have encountered a particularly hard question, a bump in the road, but it really isn't. So take a little time to just breathe and plan out your essays. Let yourself do the best that you can and believe that you're writing one of the most important thing you have ever and will ever write (even though that is a lie).
  • Make sure your answers on the question paper and answer sheet tallies up. This really weird thing happened to me during Maths, in which I accidentally somehow switched my answers for numbers 7 and 8, and because of the Question 16 fiasco, we were given extra time and because Encik Alias told us to recheck our answers, I did and wow. Is this what eternal gratitude feels like? Because I never would have gotten a 40/40 if it weren't for that.
  • I think that if you wanted to recheck your answers after taking the papers, you should do it on Friday. Like, the exams are three days separated by three days, right? Tuesday until Thursday and then two more subjects the following Monday. So if you're passionately and undyingly curious (like I am), then Friday would be the best time to look over those papers again. You'll feel disconnected enough from the exams by then and if things aren't looking so bright, you'll have just that much more extra drive and incentive to study on Saturday and Sunday for your Monday papers! (And Tuesday, if you're taking some other language like Nina and I!)
  • If you get a question wrong, you get a question wrong. There really, really, really is no use of hoping for a bonus question. It's better to be pessimistic than disappointed! (Also, for English, really, really learn how to spell disappoint).
  • Crying really is for losers. Don't cry during, don't cry after, don't cry months later when you get your results (although, yes, I am going to do that). Cry before. Like, way before. 
  • Checking back your answers is important. In some cases. In others, it just wastes your time and what you got wrong in the first place is still going to stay wrong after you recheck. However, it doesn't hurt to recheck to your heart's content, especially if you have the time! If you don't, well, that's too bad, but just remember this comforting piece of "advice": you're pretty much on the same level as those who actually do recheck.
  • Be happy and be confident. Overconfidence is a buzzkill, but I don't really think anyone's capable of overconfidence. It's just a term people use loosely to describe the feeling of euphoria one gets when one sees a question that one thinks one knows the answer to but in reality, one's just shitting oneself. So don't worry about people calling you overconfident. You just thought you knew the answer when in reality, you just messed some stuff up in your head. It's okay. We're only human and the superhuman pressure they're putting on us to ace this exam is really humiliating and kind of dehumanizing some days.
  • After all's said and done, don't bitch about it. Seriously. I don't put much stock in karma (I mean, I do, but sometimes things just don't work out the way we don't expect them to, you know?), but I'm pretty wary of saying something bad about PMR in case it decides to want to say something bad to you in return. Like, "You got a B!" followed by a really evil laugh.
Some Extra Things People Really Should Already Know But Really
  • Don't worry about the outside world.
  • Don't do drugs. Don't smoke (you don't want to be hacking out a lung while trying to do geometrical constructions, now do you?).
  • Don't cheat. It makes you stupid. It doesn't make you look stupid or sound stupid, it literally just makes you stupid.
  • Seat belts in the car!
  • Prayers before the exam starts!
  • Memorize your... well, whatever it is you call your 'angka giliran'.
  • And this is a given since your parents probably won't allow you anyways but stay indoors and stay offline sometime around 11.30!

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