Exam time is difficult for everyone, generally it is a period of high stress and late nights ultimately culminating in short periods of intense pressure.
You will likely have worked very hard to get to a point where you are ready to take your exams and so it is important that once you get there you take all of the steps possible to give yourself the best chance of success. You will hopefully have already spoken to the disability team at your college or university and informed them about how you think your epilepsy may affect your studies, if not do not worry but the earlier you can do it the better.
Firstly you must take care of yourself. Whilst revising it is important to:
- Make sure that you get a good amount of sleep
An irregular sleep pattern is not healthy for anyone and for people with epilepsy there is the added risk of seizures. Sleep plays an important part in memory consolidation and staying up until the early hours revising is not effective way to retain information; just because you have spent 8 hours solid looking at text books it does not mean that you have done 8 solid hours of revision. The quality of your revision is as important as the length of time that you spend revising, one hour of really good focused work is more beneficial than four hours where you have covered a lot but may leave feeling completely exhausted and quite often more confused that when you started.
- Take regular breaks
Whilst studying your brain will be working hard to process and retain the information that you are feeding it. It is important that you take regular breaks to help your brain refresh itself. Take this time to relax. Exercise is also helpful during these periods. Things to avoid during breaks are surfing the internet or texting/phoning your friends, this will break your concentration and will likely result in poor quality revision.
- Eat properly
It is important to eat well whilst revising. Your brain needs fuel to work properly and maintaining a good diet will help to keep your energy and blood sugar at good levels
- Organise your time
During higher education you will be busy. Besides lectures, social events and the various teams/societies/clubs that you may be affiliated with, you will need to find the time to study. Organising your schedule can help you to take advantage of any spare time that you could put to better use. Creating a revision timetable can aid you with this. Think about when your concentration levels are at their peak, is it in the morning or the evening? Small things like this can greatly improve the quality of your revision.
*Although finding the time to study is important, it is also important to include time to wind down and recharge so make sure that you create a good balance.
Your college or university has a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments for you should you need them, so do not be afraid to ask. If you are worried about a particular aspect of your examinations then talk to your disability team, (Have a look to see if they are part of our Epilepsy Friendly scheme, if so then you can find contact information here, if not ask why!) it is their job to remove any potential barriers for you and give you a fair chance of success.
Here are some examples of some of the reasonable adjustments that you could request:
*This list is not exhaustive, take it up with your disability team and they will be able to give you more information about what they can offer.
- Taking an exam at a different location or at a different time
This can be useful if you are worried about having a seizure during exams. You can request an exam invigilator to supervise you during your exam at a different location where you feel more comfortable. Taking an exam at a different time may be beneficial if you are more prone to having seizures at particular times of the day, for example, if you are more likely to have a seizure in the afternoon then you may be able to take your exam earlier in the day.
- Taking breaks during exams
You can request supervised breaks during your exams. This could be for a variety of reasons, but for example, if you struggle to concentrate for long periods of time as a result of your epilepsy or if taking a break will help to alleviate stress and prevent possible seizures.
- Request an invigilator to record any seizures
If you are likely to have seizures during an exam you can request for a member of staff to sit with you to record any seizure activity that you might have, you can then be awarded time back at the end of the exam (This is obviously dependant on seizure type and recovery time, but that is something to talk about with your disability team).
If you do have a seizure during an examination or if you miss an exam as a result of a seizure(s), then you may have a case for special consideration. If it is deemed that you have not been able to demonstrate your normal standard of attainment as a result of circumstances that are beyond your control, then there may be reason for your college or university to review your case and offer you the chance to re-sit your exam or perhaps even adjust your final grade. (This is at the discretion of the individual higher education institution).