The night before the examination is indeed a nightmare, something like a bad dream. One suffers agonies of fear and anxiety. All sorts of improbable accidents occur to the mind and create unnecessary nervousness and even panic. For those who have been playing truant through the year, the pattern is more or less the same. They anticipate the unlikeliest things to upset their equanimity. They are in a state of nervous tension. At one moment, they may feel a wave of optimism; at the next, the mind suddenly becomes blank; things slip out of the memory and refuse to come back. One wakes up in a cold sweat of fear.
Feelings, of course, differ from examiner to examiner. But one pre-occupation remains common: the examination and how to pass the test. With this end in view, some feverishly glance through the well-marked passages in the textbooks, or go quickly once again through questions carefully selected and prepared; others fall back upon cram books in a last desperate effort to recover confidence, perhaps make a final attempt to discover the shortest way to success. Perhaps a friend comes with the latest suggestions from some reputed scholar, and the two set themselves to the task of getting the answers to these properly worked out. Or wild rumor filters through that questions in a certain paper have ‘lacked out’, and they become busy over these. Not having worked for success they now proceed to gamble on it.
But it is quite otherwise with those who have not been negligent in their studies. They take things more easily. They are more confident and do not allow themselves to be frightened by any prospect of the unexpected. They are anxious but not afraid. They may just refresh themselves over the more difficult parts of their texts for a part of the night, but for the most part, they spend the night in comfortable sleep.
The night before the examination should never excite either undue fear or unreasonable confidence. One should have one’s preparations completed beforehand, and be ready for the ordeal with courage. Worry is bad, and must be avoided; it never helps. For one thing, it disturbs sleep, and that is always undesirable. There is nothing like a few hours of sleep to refresh the mind. A tired mind will be depressed and pessimistic, and this bad for the examinee. There are many students who read through the night and reach the examination hall exhausted. That is the worst condition to being, for in this state the mind refuses to work, and even facts that have been very carefully committed to memory keep slipping off from the mind. Well-begun is half done’, says the proverb. How true this is, can be realized in the examination hall, one who is not unduly flustered deals with his paper confidently; he begins on a note of confidence. A fresh mind is always sure of success and can be trusted to make a good star. But a mind jaded by over-night work fumbles vaguely with facts that do not come right; that means a bad beginning and poor prospect of success.
How the night before an examination is spent depends upon the degree of preparation that leads up to it. Those who have attended to their work with diligence have nothing to fear. Unfortunately, most students are negligent. That is why there is so much hurry and scurry, so much nervousness, so much suspense, and tension. That is why so many go about picking up stray suggestions of invoking divine aid. They gamble on the chance leakage of questions, or the mystic intervention of some mantra or magic. But as Euclid said in another context, there is no ‘royal road’ to success.