Monday, 14 September 2015

Exams : Sports

Remember what I wrote about exams as performance? If you don't, I basically framed my ideas in terms of what I think the idea has to say about The History Boys (although, of course, my having read the play, its foreword and watched the film has informed my view of exam as performance) as well as the parallels between getting up on stage and sitting down to take that end of year/semester exam. Perhaps the biggest thing to note in that last section was stage fright just being code for "I didn't prepare enough". Sounds interesting, no?

Anyway, the point is that in the last week of the first half of semester two I had two tests. With my bad luck both of these tests were worth a fair bit (minimum 20%, as far as I remember at least one was worth more than this) and scheduled for the same time on the same day. Also, I had been sick so was behind on the material... which meant things were very hectic in terms of trying to catch up and get ready for the tests. Eventually, with economics, I decided that the course of action to pursue was to go through the relevant theory and leave my knowledge of the assignment and tutorial problems (and I've missed a few tutorials now: three in fact) to recover the practical gap this would leave. Comlaw was, theoretically, the same (I even went to office hours to get more feedback on AROPA... I'll explain when I do my course review) but I ended up being a bit rushed with the theory in the end.

At this stage, I don't know how well I actually did on Comlaw. However, it was the second one I sat so when I was doing my last minute cramming (by last minute I mean I had at least ten, if not twenty or thirty minutes between my last read-through and the exam's start) and just in general during its lead in the first test was still on my mind in a big way. This was a particular problem because when you have a clash standard procedure is to attend an early session and sign disclosure form/oath which means you can't talk about the test. If you flew through it this would probably not matter so much. However, I did not fly through my economics test.

Firstly, if you ever do Economics 201 at Auckland Uni I hope you're lucky enough to get Basil because the dude's legit. Secondly, this is not why I believed him when he said that the test shouldn't have been too tricky... this is my opinion of the questions that we were given. In general, the first question was easy, the third pretty easy and the middle one was a bit tougher. So, what happened in the test?

Basically, I bombed on the third question. Having collected my script "bombed" means "scored 0 out of 15". That's really bad. Luckily I got full marks for the first two questions (i.e. 2/3 or a B-) and, in fairness, bombed also means that I didn't present any real coherent answer. I basically drew a really bad graph and wrote some wrong mathy stuff. Possibly this is because I particularly skimped on the material that this question covered. At any rate, the point is that this weighed on my mind and made the first test a pretty non-positive (in fact, arguably negative) experience. My response? I was psyched. Basically I was absolutely jumping to get started on Comlaw and be done with the bally lot of them.

Psyched, eh? That sounds like a pretty good headspace to be in. Well, honestly, it's not. I felt wired: I was raring to go and, as a result, was actually really agitated. Now, that doesn't sound good. My mind was trying to think at a hundred miles an hour and was really interested in getting a wriggle on (we actually started late as well which was sooo helpful). This is okay if you're dealing with multiple choice... or, in other words, for the first two questions worth 2/3 of the test's marks I was in a mode of thinking which is actually okay. Sadly, if you're writing a sort of essay kinda thing or a longish logical piece, you want to be thinking quickly. You don't want to be wired because sooner or later that's going to translate into stress or anxiety or, simply, mean that you can't gather and collect your thoughts sufficiently to be cogent (and, perhaps, coherent). Certainly, you're not going to be able to properly figure our the salient points. I should do better in Comlaw even allowing for errors in the MCQs but not where I want to be (i.e. at least 80%).

So, exams as performance? Relevance?

Sports are a kind of performance (hence: performance enhancing drugs) and the psychological dimension is often huge. This was raised when Gatlin lost first the 100m and then the 200m to Bolt at the last Athletics World Champs despite having led the world for the past few seasons and having come into the tournament with way faster times.

The other big story in this respect is thatRoger Federer has recently lost two finals to Novak Djokovic despite having played better tennis up until the finals (particularly in the Wimbledon semi). I haven't seen the US Open final but having followed it textually and having seen much of the Wimbledon final, I think Djokovic has just developed an edge mentally in slams to go along with the physical advantage which comes from being a professional athlete at 34 (although even when I started following tennis seven or eight years ago Federer wasn't a five set marathon master a la Nadal). To build on Federer, Home Crowd advantage is interesting because while having the crowd on your side is generally recognised as an advantage, I think Federer's enormous support's now creating a burden he previously didn't really have to deal with (solution? play finals in Britain vs Murray; probably only time Federer's likely to get a final opponent who'll split the supporters).

But psychological dimension's bigger than simply individual sports. I mean we're talking about things like Eden Park Hoodoos/Fortresses and other various curses associated with particular teams, grounds, managers or trophies/competitions. Choking. "Mind Games." Winning/Losing Streak. Goal Drought. Tail Up. Fight. Spirit. "Got to Want it". Hunger. Desire. For anyone with even the most cursory knowledge of sports, these are all strongly indicative of the psychological dimension. It matters and it matters in a big way.

Something similar, I think, is what happened with me. I think I offer an example of the sort of relevance of psychology to the meta game (or, rather, meta test). It wasn't nerves per se but an extension/embellishment or even something a little different. This is something to be aware of. You can take as many tests as you like. You can be someone like Roger Federer. But you're always going to have that last test/match/time in your head affecting you in a particular way.

Conclusion? Try and stay in control of yourself. Once you lose that, you lose a lot of your ability and are at the mercy of what you face.

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