It’s that time of year, for most young people, May means only one thing, the dreaded e word, exams. Nobody likes exams, visually impaired or not, they are stressful, but unfortunately necessary for most people in education. There are plenty of posts out there on how to prepare for exams, cope with exam stress, revise the right way, the list goes on, but I thought I would share just a few of my tips for getting through exam season when you’re visually impaired. This is by no means an exhaustive list, as I appreciate that this is the last thing you want when you have piles of revision to work through, so without further ado, let’s begin:
Prepare in advance.
I can’t stress this enough to people, please, don’t cram all your revision notes the night before your exam, neither your brain nor your body will thank you for it! If you want to brush up on your notes, break them down a few weeks before your exam, split them into sections, and do a section each week. Cramming it all in the night before will just drain you, that’s the last thing you want before the big day! After all, you want all that hard work to pay off right? So prepare in advance, and if you well and truly feel you need to do some last minute prep, just revise the key points, some short bursts of information.
Get your facts right
The chances are that if you are visually impaired, you will receive extra time for your exam. As you get closer to exams, find out how much extra time you are entitled to. In most cases, people are usually given double time, so if an exam normally lasts 1 hour, you should receive 2 hours, but some people have received less than double time. So check before the big day, and no matter what, use that extra time if you have it. If you completed all the questions and you still have time, use it, go back through your answers, try to fill in any gaps, especially those higher mark unanswered questions.
Another thing to check is what equipment can you use during the exam, will you be using your own equipment that you are used to and you have used for your studies, or something else. Get familiar with software you can and can’t use, if you are using a laptop with a screen reader, find out what features you can and can’t use. If you are going to use Word for an English exam, what features of word are you NOT able to use, such as spellcheck? You don’t want to go into the exam feeling absolutely confident that a feature will help you, only to find that actually that feature is not available during the exam.
Take breaks, even on the big day
It is very easy to get engrossed during revision and forget to take a little time away now and then to let yourself take in everything from books. A break should be something that you do to move you away from study mode, such reading a non-revisionn book, listening to some music, doing a mini workout, whatever it is that you enjoy. A break shouldn’t be distracting and put you off from going back to revising, the more you get distracted, the more stressed you’ll feel because you have more to cram in.
Even on the big day, you could well need at least one break. This is particularly important for those who receive double time. I remember my English exam being one of the longest, it would normally be 2 hours 15 minutes, giving me 4 hours 30 minutes in total. That day, I took breaks every so often, even if it just meant walking away from the desk and getting a drink, I found this really helped me to stay focussed during the exam. So don’t feel bad if you feel you need to stop for a little, whoever is supervising your exam should stop the clock and add however long you have taken for breaks onto your exam time.
Use the help you are
It is highly likely that if you are visually impaired, you will be taking your exam at the same time as everyone else, but in a different location away from other students. You are likely to have a scribe and reader, who could either be the person who has supported you before your exams, or someone different. Either way, make sure you find out exactly what the person with you can help you with. To give you an example, some of the things a scribe can do are write down what you ask them to, for example how you are working something out in a maths exam, they can write answers for you they way you ask them to, they will not make assumptions or propt you though. A scribe can help you to understand diagrams with exams if you have them, and also help you plot graphs and charts if you need to. A scribe cannot however give you clues or answers to questions, or prompt you on what steps you need to be taking to sttructure your answer. They also cannot check your answers and tell you whether you are right or wrong.
Whatever you do, just do your best
So you have done all the revision you could have possibly done, and now it’s time to put it all into practice. Nobody can tell you exactly what will come in the exam, all any teacher can do is help you prepare so that you can apply what you have learnt no matter what the question is. So on the day, even if the questions do hit you by surprise and are not exactly what you expected them to be, just remember, try your absolute best, that’s all anyone can ask of you. You may well have some questions that you absolutely whizz through, get those done first, so that you can focus on those lger questions that will give you more marks and get the gade you want. After the exam you will probably feel you could have done better, that’s normal, I was the same, but stressing afterwards will change nothing, the answers are in, so if you can take
your mind away from it until Results day then do it. Some people do feel that their visual impairment affected how well they did in their exam, but as long as everything is in place in terms of adapting the exam, you should be able to do just as well despite being visually impaired.
So there you have it, my 5 tips for coping with exam stress from a visually impaired perspective. I would like to wish everyone all the luck with exams no matter what you are taking, and feel free to tell me how helpful you found these tips.