40 years ago the Rubik’s cube was invented and has been an iconic part of our culture ever since: the perfect gift for those moments when you have no better ideas and the recipient likes “maths”; a source of fun party themes; a brain tease way to pass an idle moment. On the radio* someone with Asperger’s syndrome explained the appeal to him. He pointed out that for every combination the cube presented, a set number of known moves would turn each of the six faces to one colour. And it would work each and every time. Ask a person the same question 10 times, he commented, and there could be 10 different answers and he never understood why.
The exam results and consequences algorithm is similar to a Rubik’s cube. There are a finite number of exam outcomes from fail through to A* and, initially, a finite number of options as a consequence. Ultimately, of course, the scope for our futures is only bounded by our imaginations – but the worry of exams makes us forget this.
Once you know the results, the Rubiks moves are clear, but the waiting is without doubt stressful. During study leave and the exam schedule itself there is the whole business of revision: stocking the fridge, finding lost calculators, pens and kit. Reading through prompt cards and worrying how anyone is going to be able to read the hand-writing. Then the exams finish and waiting begins. There are days you forget, days people ask about them so you’re reminded, days you don’t care, days you check on-line just incase the results are early or the examiners have gone on strike, days spent doing trade-offs in your head with the gods of exam results.
Happily there are several proven strategies to overcome stress. These include the following:
- Listen to classical music. Pachelbel’s Canon and Vivaldi have been shown to be effective, but I would also suggest Smetana’s Vltara movement from Mā vlast which follows the route of a river to the sea**.
- Spend at least half an hour outside in the sunshine soaking up the rays, less than half an hour can leave you feeling short-changed.
- Laugh. Watch something funny, remember silly moments, share a daft story – at the very least try and fake a smile which may encourage others to laughter…
- Hang out with the dog or cat, they will calm you down. Hugging is good too.
And when September comes and the results, for better or worse are in – the young people will move on to their next adventure and all the adults who have been doing the worrying and stressing and fretting can breathe calmly again.
*The Rubik’s cube at 40 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0217k6m
**Smetana’s fabulous music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdtLuyWuPDs