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Episode 16 - The 3 Characteristics of A Towners

By James Davey

Hello, this is James Davey, The Exam Coach and Welcome to Episode 6 of Davey Discusses a new podcast series I'm putting together in time for the 2016 Exam Season. This short podcast series is designed to tackle everything to do with exams from preparation to performance whether you're at school, college or Uni there is certainly something of value to be taken away. It's designed to fill that period of down time you may have when walking to school in the morning, in between lectures at Uni or whenever else you have 5 minutes to spare and put it to good use. Let's get stuck into this one then.      In this week's episode I''l talk about three important personality traits you will need to work on developing in order to do exams The Exam Coach Way.    Number 1 - You need to be Calm   Students who do well in exams remain calm at all stages of the examination process from revision to exam performance.  They are not phased easily and always keep one eye on the bigger picture, they are also able to quickly find solutions when under pressure. Two tips I have for developing this is are as follows. The first would be to use effective planning to offset stress and anxiety - a good planning session even if its just planning the next 24 hours can really help keep you calm and moving in a straight line towards your target. This is also why I'm such a fan of routine because effective planning leads to good routine - that's why The FUN Exam Plan is choc full of things to help you form routines because I believe they are the basic building blocks to successful exam performance as their effective execution help to keep your calm and on track at all times.   The second is self belief, believe that you can find an answer, this is not some positive thinking woo woo stuff with no action and execution to back it up. What I'm saying you should do is believe you can find answers and think carefully and intelligently about what the answer may be. This belief should lead to a positive set of reactions to a tough question of any sort of challenge set within the context of exams. Now your immediate reaction once there is a tough question thrown your way is to step back and think about it properly in a calm manner considering all the options rather than defaulting to desperation, self criticism and panic like many other students do. In this way the mindset f self belief is very useful.    But you're probably thinking something like 'In an exam its actually pretty hard to stay completely calm if you actually do not know or have the faintest idea of the answer to the question - especially if it carries a lot of marks such as an essay question'.  Let's say you open the paper - and the essay questions that come up just happen to be the ones you are least comfortable with. First you will feel your tummy role a bit and then comes the defining moment in that exam do you panic or do deploy plan B, in sporting terms this is your scrambling game, do you start running the pig skin instead of throwing the Hail Mary, do you deciede to chip out from behind the tree to give you a clear shot at the green instead of trying to play a 200 yard draw over water. What I mean by these examples is do you have your exam management on deck or are you just a fair weather player. Doing exams the exam coach way means you can come out of an exam with a decent grade regardless of whether you're teed up with an absolute beauty of a question or a toughy. If you're served up a stinker you start deploying your scrambling game, your Plan B. You do what any quarterback would do if it was too windy to risk making plays by throwing to the wide receivers instead you resort to the running game you give it to the running back and he makes the hard yards. In the same way a pro golfer would resort to some course management if he or she found their ball in a difficult position. The key is they'd put in the preparation and the planning beforehand to deploy a decent Plan B strategy to put them in with a good shout of winning, they'd work out a way to still salvage a score. You need to do the same in your exams. If you get a toughy the key thing is to first work out exactly what the question is asking you - it may just turn out it isn't that tough after all. Then you need to start piecing together an answer from what you do know, remember to always be answering the question set mind you, it never works when you try to manipulate or alter the meaning of the question to suit what you do know. Be honest and always give the kind of answer the examiner is looking for. Again it's not glamorous or creative but it's effective and that's what you need - effective methods to come away with some decent results next to your name. Have your A game ready to go and if the questions suit you then you are cruising, if the questions dot quite go your way on the day make sure you have worked on your Plan B enough so that your scrambling game can pull you through with a decent result - a great Plan B will help you stay calm just in case your Plan A doesn't quite work out as you'd hoped. Be flexible and adapt to the exam situation.    The second key trait that people have who do exams The Exam Coach Way is that they are cool. And I don't mean cool in the calm sense - I've just spoken about that - I mean cool as in as in socially popular. I know this may not be something you'd immediately associate with someone who does well in exams but when you're doing exams the exam coach way - this is almost always the case. People who do well are socially popular. Are here's why....   What I'm n about here is the simply truth that socially popular people are authentic, they don't pander to the crowd, they are themselves and it is because of this uniqueness in being themselves that they tend to stand out and therefore are usually quite popular. You need to be cool because you need to be able to have the strength in your decision making to do what is right for you, every time. Socially popular people also feel confident enough to have potentially difficult conversations with friends because they know that their friendships run deeper than just surface level behaviour and trying to do the 'cool' thing, as people always say the moment you start 'trying' it just isn't cool because its not really you, socially popular people realise that people will have to accept them for who they are because they can't try and pretend to be anything else.    So its the cool people who are often very skilled in doing exams the exam coach way. Remember the exam coach way is about balance its about doing well in your exams whilst also being able to do all of the other stuff like socialising, sports, gaining out etc. There are people who are considered to be cool who don't do well in exams - that's because they are missing the other part of the equation. They can manage their social relationships but the work ethic and exam coach way isn't there, they're not balancing. On the flip side those people who have the exam tekkers but don't necessarily have the cool side which allows the to manage their relationships effectively also struggle to achieve great exam results the exam coach way. It is those who are well rounded and balanced who do and being cool enough to be comfortable and confident with yourself and your friends is all part and parcel of this. It allows you to make the right decisions for yourself instead of being heavily influenced or even dictated by external factors such as the needs of friends or social pressure in general.    Here's a few examples from my own experience. The school I went to was a boarding school and this meant that it was pretty much not stop socialising for 5 years. Every night there would be something going on, people would be doing something that really, in the short term, you would love to be doing. Things like a footie on the astro in the evening, gaming sessions and tv series binges. I genuinely believe one of the key skills that was developed during this time was my ability to say no to something that in the short term was very tempting but I knew that long term it would add little value to my main long term goal. I'm not saying I was the most socially popular person by any stretch of the imagination but what I am saying is that I felt very comfortable doing what was right for me and my long term, and I was also comfortable that my friends would accept that, after all that's who I am and how I will always be. The negative issue arises when someone doesn't have the confidence, or social awareness to realise that its okay to do this and their friends should just accept it as part of being your friend. Its those people who constantly feel they need to please and pander rather than just do the right thing in the long term that end up not being able to pull it off in exam time because other people control their time and social activities rather than themselves. And playing to the crowd, pandering and just being a run of the mill average joe isn't too cool in most people's book, I'd like to think most people would want to spend time with interesting, independent minded people who have their own authentic personality and character traits. Being confident enough to get the balance right between prioritising your own needs and the people who are you friends and you enjoy spending time with is key to exam success. Being cool is part and parcel of this because being cool is being yourself, when you are being yourself you usually have a pretty good grasp of what's best for you in the long term, and that long term thinking is going to land you slap bang in the middle of A town.   I'm constantly working on this balance between my personal needs, what I would like to be doing in the short term and what my friends would like me to be doing with them or vice versa what I would like to be doing with them. It's all about balance and prioritisation, the difficult part of this is having enough confidence and foresight to make the best decisions for you. It's not selfish, you've got everyone's best interests in mind. For example, if you say you want to get involved with something your friends are doing but you're not fully there as your mind is wandering off about the revision or work you know you really should be doing then that's not really doing them justice, what's more you will not hit A town in your exams - it's a lose lose. If you are more selective you will actually want to be with your friends and they will enjoy your company far more, you'll be on top form and what's more you'll hit A town because you know you've put the work in by sometimes prioritising work over socialising when you know you needed to. Its a win win. That's how I see it under the lense of doing exams The Exam Coach Way and for me it works, when ever I'm with my friends I go all in and when I'm working I also go all in - its a recipe for happy relationships with your friends and exam results.    The third key skill is the ability to focus on one thing at a time. Exams can be daunting prospect even The Coach gets that, and that's especially so if you have lots of them. The revision can really stack up, the number of exams can feel like a marathon and the long days can be a grind. One of the best techniques for achieving a seemingly very difficult task was perfectly demonstrated this year by Leicester City Football Club in the English Premier League. Forgive another sporting analogy but I really do think they do a good job of contextualising some of the points I'm making and making them easily understandable and relatable - let name know if its helping you - theexamcoach on snapchat They just took it on game at a time, they didn't get ahead of themselves and all of a sudden it was the final few games of the season and they had won the league. They gave each individual game their full time and attention, they broke things down, they divided and conquered so to speak. They didn't take anything for granted, after all its Leicester - everyone thought they'd eventually fall off the pace and end up in the lower half of the table. But it really was a perfect example of chunking up a huge task and achieving something extraordinary. Your ability to chunk up your individual revision session, the syllabus, each exam and everything else that can be chunked, sliced and diced etc. is really going to help you devote your total focus to hitting A town on results day. A classic example of students  getting this wrong is when they dwell too long on a past exam and they start thinking about or trying to guess what they scored by discussing answers with others. Before they know it they''re sitting their next exam and they've done no revision for it because they were too concerned about the previous paper - then after they've finished the current paper that they haven't revised for they really will have something to worry about and the downward cycle continues. Break it down, focus on one task at a time and you'll be able to climb the mountain, keep your head down and watch the ground pass you by. Exams are as much a psychological test as they are about your ability to actively recall information under a pressurised situation in the exam room. This is why the psychology of peak performance in sport is so useful in aiding us with our exam prep. The same principles apply. Treat every exam as it comes, have a game plan, execute the strategy, mark down some improvements and learn from it, then onto the next.    In summary stay calm, be cool and always focus. Thanks for listening and I shall be back next week.

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