Starting a postgraduate course in science education was a huge culture shock for me. As a science graduate I was used to writing very concise, to-the-point reports and all of a sudden I had to write what felt like flowery, waffley, humanities-type essays and I didn’t have a clue where to start.

I wasn’t the only one who struggled. Pretty much everyone on the course was having the same problems for the same reason and we were all complaining to anyone who would listen. A few students kicked up a fuss on the course forum. This is how the tutor responded.

“Yes it’s difficult, so rise to the challenge.”

 

As simple as it is, that’s the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given.

Why did I find that advice so powerful?

 

It wasn’t so much what she said but more the subtext – she was obviously trying to say “just shut up moaning and get on with it!” We all had to do the assignment and no amount of complaining was going to change that. All the energy we were using to moan could have been used to learn the new skills we needed and get the assignment done!

It really made me stop and realise that I was being a bit of an idiot and nearly 5 years later I still think back to it every time I have to do something that’s hard or that I would really rather not have to do. In this type of situation your mindset is your best tool – if you think positively your experience will be positive but if you think negatively, well… you get the idea.

How it applies to revision

 

I think that this advice is particularly relevant at revision time. Revision is HARD WORK. It’s hard to motivate yourself, it’s not pleasant going back over work you’ve already done and probably didn’t understand or enjoy the first time around, it’s not nice having to deal with the pressure of the impending exams, and it’s really not fun when you realise that you can’t remember something that you spent ages learning.

It’s perfectly normal to feel stressed and upset about all of this. But sometimes you just have to strap your boots on, grit your teeth and get on with it. You have to “rise to the challenge”. It’s got to be done whether you like it or not, no amount of complaining is going to change that and there is only you that can do it. The more time you spend stressing about it, the worse you will feel and the less you will get done.

With revision I used to find that the thought of it was worse than the reality. I would spend hours having the “Oh no, I really should be revising” thoughts and I’d mess about doing something totally irrelevant for a little bit longer, all the while feeling totally guilty about not doing any revision. Then, when I actually managed to force myself to do it I found that I quite enjoyed it!

How it applies to exams

 

The same advice also applies to the exams themselves. If you think of the exams as method of torture designed to ruin your teenage years and scupper your chances of getting your dream job then that’s exactly what they will be. But if you start seeing the exams as your opportunity to show how smart you are, how much you’ve learned and prove you’re ready to tackle university then it will be a much better experience for you.

Next time you’re getting stressed about your revision think back to this advice. “Yes, it’s difficult. So rise to the challenge”. Put your heart and soul into it and go show what you can do.