Ever seen nightmares and then woken up in the morning happy to be alive and realize that it was just a nightmare? And what when you wake up one fine morning to realize that the reality is much worse than the nightmare?
For one of the strategies I picked up from my engineering friends despite my non-engineering background was the fact that one was supposed to attack lessons the day before the exams. I know it is nothing to be proud of, but that is the way it works. It wasn’t that I’d touch my lessons only the evening before my exams. I would make notes (and I proudly claim, I make some very good notes), collect materials, highlight the important stuff, and keep everything ready. But the day prior to the exams was meant for cramming.
Of course every time I have written an exam, I have pledged that henceforth I am never going to cram last moment again. But laziness afflicts me. 7 days before the exams, I knew I had a week to prepare. 6 days before, I knew it was too early to touch my notes. 5 days before, I thought that I would anyway forget stuff so early, so it is better that like buying vegetables, I did the job of cramming FRESH. 4 days to go, and work started in my lab at such a spree that I had time for nothing else. 2 days to go, and my prof from another course wanted me to rewrite a paper. And then, there was just a day before the exams.
But then again, when you work with living systems in the lab, cells do not grow at your convenience, and there are always instances when you have to rush to the lab or get things redone, despite the time and situation. The day before the exams, I had to go to the lab to work on my cells. Work continued till evening and by the time I came home, I knew I had no time to study for the exams. Once I reached home, I actually made a mental time frame. 5 minutes and I am done with checking my mails. 15 minutes to change and shower. 10 more minutes to heat and eat my dinner. 5 more minutes to make coffee. Things were going fine, just that I wish I could crash instead of studying after a hard day. Looking at the watch that showed me 8:30pm, I decided that a 90 minute nap would do me good to recharge my batteries. The night was going to be crucial. So I set my alarm to wake me up at 10 pm, and went to sleep. A quick mental calculation told me that I would still have 15 hours for the exam, and 8 lectures to cram. I should be fine.
So I closed my eyes, trying to sleep for a while. The alarm clock lay beside me. Purposefully, I slept on the sleeping bag, lest the comforts of the bed make it more difficult for me to wake up. And then, slowly, I was ensconced in the arms of Morpheus, the sleep God.
The next thing that happens is that I wake up to admire the faint shades of blue in the sky. What a beautiful morning, I think scrubbing my eyes as I look through the glass windows, twisting in my sleeping bag. What time is it? I rummage through my stuff for my wrist watch and squint at it- 5am? A little early in the morning to wake up. But wait! What day it is? Wasn’t I supposed to wake up the previous night and study? Holy shit !!
I was too confused, and past caring if the alarm didn’t go off or did I not wake up. I got myself an extra 7 hours of sleep instead of studying for the exams. For a brief moment, I wondered if I could complete the preparations at all and appear for the exams. And then there was this inexplicable thing, the fighter instinct that makes you struggle to breathe, the survival instinct that doesn’t let you give up, that told me that I could do it. I didn’t dare to eat, or drink that day. I approximately had 7 hours, and 8 lectures to cram.
Thankfully I had my self made notes that made things a little easier for me (perhaps). And for the next 7 hours, I studied with an intensity I have seldom seen in me. My brain wasn’t an organ anymore, it was a huge sponge that soaked in all the information that poured in. It is amazing how we desperately seek survival strategies in times of stress.
For I remember how I crammed rote information. There was a gamut of effects to describe when exposed to a particular pesticide that would have taken me eons to remember. But suddenly, I found connections, made words using their first alphabets, arranged them in a sequence and learnt them. Here take a look at this-
Vitamin “A” depletion.
“D”eregulation of lipid metabolism.
I somehow managed to arrange these parameters in alphabetical order. I arranged words, found weird connections, visually imagined the radicals screwing up the organs in a certain process to cause cell death, and compared to mechanisms of cell injury and cell death to accidents and fatal accidents. Good mechanisms and bad mechanisms were compared to love making and molestation. I couldn’t possibly explain the ways I found to remember what I learnt. And those have been the worst 7 hours of my life. But somehow I managed to cram and revise and re-revise before the exams. I remember buying myself just a bottle of juice from the wending machine so that I had my blood glucose levels high and didn’t faint in the course of writing the exam. And of course the whole 7 hours of sleep the previous night had recharged my batteries enough to improve my concentration.
My only 2 concerns were to get all the known questions in the exam and to be able to remember everything. That I did. I hope I did well in that too. But this incident would remain etched forever as the nightmare that happened to me in real life. If you ask me, it was a traumatic experience to wake up on the day of the exams, having overslept and still not prepared a bit. It would only have been God and something inexplicable that made me remember all those stuff in so short a time.
Study in advance! Don't procrastinate!
Make sure the alarm clock is not screwed up.
If needed, ask someone to wake you up and kick your ass every time you dozed off.
And stop believing that the more ahead of time you learn, the more ahead of time you forget.