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How to Survive Diploma Exams

Jun 03, 2019

My memories of high school diploma season mostly consist of a lot of hype and nerves—the tests were worth 50% of our final grade at the time—and early Saturday mornings spent going to diploma prep courses in sweatpants. Also, lots of tea and coffee.

Overall, though, they didn’t live up to the hype. Diplomas may feel intimidating because they’re the big final tests, and they’re heavily weighted, but ultimately they’re just like any other exam. If anything, they’re an opportunity to get ready for university life! I think Alberta diplomas are worth somewhere around 30% of your final grade, now. As an English major, almost all of my senior courses include a major essay assignment that’s worth the same.

All that said, here are some tips on how to survive your diploma exams:

  • Don’t Stress
    I know, I know. I hate this kind of advice too. But seriously! When my grandma wrote her diplomas they were worth 100% of her final grade. When I wrote mine, they were worth 50%. You can handle this. It’s not as big a deal as you think. They’re just exams. Work hard, but don’t go overboard.
  • Study well.
    I went to diploma prep courses for subjects that I was struggling in, and it was a great opportunity to review some course content with a different teacher than usual. Sometimes encountering different teaching methods like this is a great way to gain a new perspective on a subject or topic you think you know well. Re-write your notes, quiz your friends, re-read important passages or sections of the novels and textbooks you’ve studied.
  • But don’t over-study.
    It’s important to study well, and that means taking breaks. If you’re drilling yourself on course content all day and night, you’re going to be left too exhausted to remember and use it during the exam. Go for a walk, have dinner with your friends, and get enough sleep. Don’t take so many breaks that you can’t also study adequately, but don’t let the studying take over the end of your last year of high school. Finding a strong balance between study-time and fun is great practice for university.
  • Get comfortable.
    Walk into that exam wearing comfortable clothes. If you’re allowed, bring some coffee or water. Sit back in your chair, take a deep breath, and just . . . do it. When I’m writing an exam, I try to get into the same mind set as when I’m studying at home. That means making sure I’m physically and mentally comfortable. I try to lean back in my chair, take a sip of my drink every once in a while, and just take it one question at a time.
  • Manage your time.
    Speaking of taking it one question at a time . . . make sure you manage your time well! Pay attention to what parts of the exam are worth the most, what parts will take the longest to complete, and glance up at the clock every now and then. It helps to read through the exam first, or at least take a look at each part. Read over the short answer questions, and if you’re worried about time, answer them before you tackle the multiple choice.

You can do it! Diploma exams, and then all of high school, will be over before you know it!

Happy studying,

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