How can I stop procrastinating for an exam in 2 weeks?
November 19, 2023 9:48 AM   Subscribe

I posted a while back about procrastination, it's happening again and with the I posted about back then, which I have now failed twice. This is now my second resit of this accounting exam, Advanced Taxation and the idea of failing again is unbearable. For context, including this exam, I have 3 exams left before becoming a fully qualified accountant.

My exam is on Wednesday 6th December, I have 2 whole weekends left and 3 full working days I have taken off as leave. I've started working through the questions even though my grasp of the material isn't really there. I know topics vaguely from previous re sits.

I am looking at the question, trying to figure it out by looking at the textbook, then looking at the answer and then attempting the question on my own. It is a very slow, painful process.

The last two sittings, I went through the material watching lecture videos but attempted almost no practice questions, which was my huge mistake.

I had this whole weekend to study but I've been panicking whenever I start I looking at the questions and then I have procrastinated a lot. The whole weekend, I have done 4 questions, when I could probably have done at least 10 if I was being focused and efficient.

It also doesn't help that my job is very full on and stressful, so I'm overall feeling very stressed.

I do think I can pass, but only if I stop procrastinating and throw everything I have at this exam, every last ounce of me.

Has anyone been in this place and can anyone give me advice to carry me through this period?
posted by Sunflower88 to Education (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: *the same exam I posted about back then ( correction to opening)
posted by Sunflower88 at 9:50 AM on November 19

I can tell you what worked for me with an exam where I needed to do as many practice questions as I had to - I went to a cafe, turned off my phone and just left myself with no choice but either to stare into the void or do questions. And rewarded myself with drinks and food whenever I did.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 10:16 AM on November 19 [11 favorites]

Set a timer. 5 minutes, maybe 10 to start. Study for the amount of time on the timer. Stop when the timer goes off and assess if you died or anything from studying. No? Take a break for the same amount of time and then come back and set the timer for twice as long.

This is the time for you to show up for Future You. And not even the Future You who has passed the exam, just Future You after the exam who can at least say "well, I made the effort".

Find someone to body-double with, which means they work on a thing they need to do while you work on a thing you need to do. If you have social media friends, that can be especially useful as you can just check around: does anyone else need a task buddy for the next few hours? I need to get some stuff done that I can't put off anymore. And the two of you can DM periodically or get on Zoom or Discord and sit in silence most of the time (or one of you can stream some "chill lo-fi beats to work and study") but check in periodically.

You are in control of this narrative, and you can use that to your advantage, but I would actually beware of statements like "throw everything I have at this exam, every last ounce of me" - because it sets too high a bar and too ethereal a goal. Your goal right now is not to pass the test, your goal right now is just to study. Your goal is to get a really substantial chunk of studying done today. Tomorrow's goal is for tomorrow. Just get today's work done.

I do strongly suggest changing locations, if possible, every time you do a timer sprint. Do a sprint on the couch, do one at the dining table, do one on the bathroom counter, do one sitting in your car, do one sitting in bed.

I also have a work thing I've been putting off, so please imagine me spiritually body-doubling with you for the next several hours. You and I will both be in MUCH better shape tomorrow if we get a decent chunk of work done today.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:18 AM on November 19 [9 favorites]

Building on the body doubling idea, might Focusmate help? It connects you with other people to be on a video work-in-parallel session for this kind of thing, but because there's a larger network, you can set it up to meet your own convenience instead of needing to coordinate around a particular other person's schedule. Three sessions a week for free, unlimited for $7/month, I believe.

Recent comment about it on a different recent question here.
posted by redfoxtail at 10:24 AM on November 19 [10 favorites]

I like the idea of delaying worry / emotion. Any time it comes up just say “thanks, I’ll feel that on Dec 7th” or set aside ten minutes to worry every day, worry only from 8-810pm, otherwise push it out of your mind.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:30 AM on November 19 [4 favorites]

What would work for me, but maybe not for you, is to list out exactly what you want to get done over the 7 days. Is that 70 practice questions? That means 10 practice questions per day. For the first day, list your 10 practice questions with checkboxes and drill further into the planning of 5 questions in the morning and 5 in the afternoon. This means 1 question per hour. Plan rewards/breaks for each set of questions. I like to plan and find it relaxing to know what the plan is so I can let go of planning and just do with confidence. If this planning is stressful, then maybe something else would work better, consider what has worked for you in the past.

Consider hiring a tutor to meet with you once per day to go over what you have done and what you have left to do.
posted by RoadScholar at 10:33 AM on November 19 [3 favorites]

You have 7 working days in which to study. You can do this.

If you're not confident in the material you probably need to do a mix of really focused revision (eg condensing your material into a single page of notes per topic) on the weaker areas, and practice questions. You will probably benefit from doing some questions untimed before moving at a brisk pace onto timed questions.

If procrastination is a problem, anything you can do to get yourself started is probably the trick. Tackle something you know well as a first thing. Get a friend to sit with you. Go to the library to study. Things that make a difference to me include having a the right size/type of paper to work on, handwriting notes rather than typing them, having the right amount of caffeine.

Finally, you can't be productive for more than 8 hours really. Once you're done for the day put everything away and distract yourself with a film / video game etc.

Best of luck, we're all rooting for you.
posted by plonkee at 10:36 AM on November 19 [2 favorites]

There is a grave danger that you get hung up on all the things you don’t know and lose sight of what you do know to pass your exam. The below is based on what the training companies that prepare people for that kind of exam drill. There is a reason why their students have consistently higher pass marks than people who rely on self study and that is that they focus on exam technique and present topics with that in mind. This is not about academic knowledge much as the ACCA would have you think otherwise.

What I mean is that your exam consists of 100 pts and you need 51 (most likely, what is the pass mark?). So if there are ten questions you only need 5 pts in 9 questions and 6 pts in the last question. I am not suggesting that you aim for 51 pts, I am suggesting you don’t waste time or mental energy trying to get 70 or 80 pts. And I recommend strongly that you make sure you understand the formal pass requirements. And how the question format/marking grid works.

There are different ways to achieve a pass mark. The most reliable are

1/ rigorous time management and

2/ focusing on low hanging fruit.

Detailed knowledge of each topic is not on this list. So if your lack of that is causing you to procrastinate…procrastinating will cause you to fail again, not knowing the finer points of your syllabus won’t.

Time management
If you have a 2 hr exam each point represents 1.2 minutes. So you should never spend more than 12 mins on a 10 pt question. Adjust as required based on the question format. I’ll stick with 10 questions and 10 pts for ease.

If you spend more than 12 mins on a 10 pt question you are reducing your chances of finishing the rest of the exam. To maximise your chances of passing you need to have a go at all questions. So after 12 mins you move on to the next question even if you only managed to get down 1-2 bullets or the first couple of steps of the computation. You can always come back to it at the end if you have time left. But if you don’t move on you now only have 1 min per point or even less…

Low hanging fruit
The reason why you have to have a go at every question is because there are going to be some easy points for every question. You need to have time to earn these.

So my approach would be to study the responses to practice questions and figure out what they awardthe easy points for. Make sure you know that for all your topics.

And then I’d figure out what topics you are most comfortable with to see if you can reliably get most of those responses down in the time you have.

By doing that you make sure you get some points for every question, even in your weak topics. And you get decent scores for the topics you’re most comfortable with.

There is method to this madness….it is easier to get the easy points on all topics than it is to get the last 1-2 points on any topic, even the ones you are comfortable with. But you need to make sure you have time to look at each question and get these easier points.

That will probably be 35-40 pts across 10 questions. If you don’t get to the last two questions you’re missing out on 6-8 easy points. That’s the difference between pass and fail.

What does that mean for your study days?
Start by spending time with the results to questions to start out with. Take notes/start a matrix of what the answers award points for. The output here is the answer parts that represent the easy points. Memorise the information that earns the easy points. There are only so many ways they can cover the topics in the constraints of the exam syllabus and exam format.

Then focus on some topics you’ll do more of a deep dive on and make sure you can reliably get most of those answers down.

And then spend time just practicing whole exams with timers. Make sure you know how to watch time under exam conditions as I assume your phone timer won’t work.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:53 AM on November 19 [19 favorites]

I was so annoyed when I discovered that the Pomodoro Technique that everyone is always raving about actually worked really well for me.

Get a timer THAT IS NOT YOUR PHONE for it.

Don't use your phone on the 5 min breaks. Get up and do something not screen related.

It's a lot easier to study when you know it's for a limited chunk of time each time.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:38 PM on November 19 [4 favorites]

This IS doable, and YOU can do it.

Knowing it's in your grasp is what makes procrastination - if there's no chance of passing, you wouldn't be so anxious about it!

So. Get the hell out of the house, turn off your phone (or airplane mode if you need if for music), go somewhere you've been successful (Cafe, library, work desk on a weekend if you won't use that as a distraction), get whatever treats strike your fancy from chips to sweets to ultra quad mocha frappuccino with unicorn dust. Whatever it is, for the next 7 days, the limits are off. If you're working, you can have it.

If you have to, don't let yourself get up to use the bathroom until you start a question or start rewriting your notes or start making flashcards or whatever it is. Bladders are great motivation!

When is your primo mental time? Reconfigure your life to maximize that time for studying, including starting prior to that time so you "hit your groove" when your brain kicks on.

Music same question - I find VERY loud EDM/trance/house/etc extremely helpful to pound by brain into submission and get kicked into gear. Not on headphones! This is only when I can shake the walls of the house all alone!

Even if normally you prefer quiet background rain/fire/waves/etc or soothing/study/jazz music, try the same loud, try somethig different, just make sure it doesn't become procrastination. Try it for a question before changing it.

Your goal is to *start* working. It doesn't matter how or what you're doing, and it doesn't matter what you have to do to make yourself start (over-caffination? Go for it!), just start.

Set an alarm for an end. For you that may be 3a, that might be 6p, whatever it is, set an alarm for a rational time so you have at minimum 2-3h to decompress before bed. Do *nothing* in the evening, preferably without staring at your phone or TV, but do what you've got to do. Even though exercise isn't my thing, often I'll be so wound up that it actually feels good and relaxing to burn off the anxiety in that way. If you can, do that, but remind yourself you're not starting any sort of habit, you're not trying to do it more than once, this isn't about "healthy", this is about doing the best possible actions to make your brain work for this test, nothing else. My goal was always about turning my brain off and burning off anxiety/caffeine/ sugar.

Then sleep. Take drugs if you have them. Again, this is "anything goes" as long as it gets you 9+ hours of good sleep (yes this does include the night before the exam), this is non-negotiable for your absolute best performance and learning. Note this doesn't include anything that disrupts your sleep :( Alcohol is unfortunately out ź save that for after the exam and in normal life.

Shut your brain up with "not right now" when you start freaking out about how long each question takes or how much you still have to do. "You're doing it right now" as an answer to myself always helped when I started to wind myself up while I was studying.

You can do it!
posted by esoteric things at 1:43 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]

Oh, and don't plan on doing anything at all the day/night/morning of the exam. Nothing. Not reviewing, not cramming, not anything but sleeping or eating or laundry/cleaning or whatever keeps you distracted enough to sleep well at the bedtime you've set.

Use alarms to keep yourself on track (they function as mental checkins- "am I doing what I need to do right now or not?) and for the love of god keep yourself away from your phone/social media/etc, especially when you want to be studying and when you're decompressing to sleep.

Now taking my own advice to get something I want to do done today :)
posted by esoteric things at 1:49 PM on November 20 [2 favorites]

« Older Mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, Mac and cheese…   |   Holiday covid risk calculations, part ??? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments