Dealing With The Countdown

Once again, it’s the time when every student around the world is looking around and realising: “OH C***, IT’S APRIL” and they feel immensely unprepared for the two months to follow: exam time. My friend is freaking out because she can’t actually force her brain into gear right now and the fact she’s freaking out is just making matters worse. Is there actually a way to handle The Countdown?

Sometimes it’s frustrating, but other times the sheer amount of revision just makes a person crazy. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that – last year I was sending Snapchats to my friends of me balancing various school-related items on top of my head because I was that far gone. I think at one point I had a bottle on top of a pencil case on top of a texbook up there… It also leads to a tonne of mess:

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In case you were wondering, that’s been my ‘nest’ (as my mother likes to call it) for the last two days, and it’s probably going to continue to be my nest for the next week before I return to school. The HDMI cable coming out of my laptop is connected to a small TV so I can use Netflix in the background without having to pay too much attention to it.

The Countdown is probably the worst part of the school year, because now is when you start to realise ‘Sh**, I should have started revising about a year ago’, or ‘when the f*** did that ever come up in class?!’, or that that lesson you missed when you were off that one time was probably the most important lesson all year. In your mind, you have no idea what position you’re going to be in by the time you take your exam, and that fear is either motivational, or extremely hindering. Sometimes it changes from one to the other from day to day.

On top of that, parents are the most unhelpful people imaginable when it comes to The Countdown. Anything and everything they say is unhelpful, and will always bring about an over-reaction…

“You’ll be fine, I have faith in you.” = SO MUCH PRESSURE, LEAVE ME ALONE!

“Shouldn’t you be working right now instead of watching TV?” = OMG DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND HOW MUCH I’VE WORKED TODAY?!

“Can you just help me with -” NO, MUM. I CANNOT. I AM INCAPABLE OF EVERYTHING.

“You’ve worked too much today, take a break.” = NO, I CAN’T, THERE’S SO MUCH TO DO, DON’T YOU GET HOW MUCH I HAVE TO DO?! GOOOODDDDDD!

… Or stuff like that. They tell you anything, and it will be taken the wrong way. Really, the best thing a parent can do during The Countdown is feed you. You know, just tentatively put the plate down, and back away slowly. Interference should be minimal.

I’m managing fairly well with The Countdown so far, I think. Having a friend doing two of the same A Levels as me is immensely helpful – we’re sharing notes, giving each other any revision material the other makes, and getting together to do things as a pair. Or, you know, freaking out together over Snapchat.

Two things are helping me through: the freak-outs, for one – if it’s gonna happen, let it happen. Swear all you like about anything you like. Give it all up for ten minutes and just lie on the floor, flicking through the Snapchat filters because there’s about a hundred other things you could be spending your time doing but right now, you really don’t care. And getting rid of so much work. That sounds so immensely illogical, but if you have the persistence to go through all of your notes, you’ll realise just how much of that 4-inch thick pile of paper is just a waste of space, so you take out everything that is actually important, and put it into a format you’ll actually use and get rid of the rest. I did this with my History folder and reduced it by half. I did it with my English folder and got rid of just about everything in there, because after the coursework (which was submitted two months ago), there was only 5 pages’ worth of information that I needed that wasn’t annotations in my books.

Ultimately, if there’s anything to be learned about The Countdown, it’s that there is no way to handle it. The best thing you can do with it is allow anything that’s going to happen to happen, and to let the freak-outs come and go, and to persist. This is my fourth Countdown period, having had exam seasons for the last three years, and it certainly won’t be my last for another few years to go.

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