Facing Thesis Exam: An Experience

Every year, universities produce hundreds of thesis books.
Maybe yours is one of them?
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Just a few days ago, I went through one of the most significant obstacle to end another phase of my life: thesis exam. The term 'thesis' here belongs to a task that a student must do in order to graduate from an undergraduate program. Many people consider this one last roadblock to be agonizing, fearful, and of course, scary. I don't blame them... because I, too, was in panic a few days before the exam. But hey, I did it.

And now I'm going to share my experience with you guys.

Why Scary?

A few years ago, when I was in my second year, I asked myself, "Why do people consider this scary? It's just a presentation, there should be nothing to worry about." At that time, I heard many of my upperclassmen finished the exam with either a stellar score or merely a few revisions. The next year was the time when I had to withdraw my statement. More of my upperclassmen didn't make it... or they made it, but with a long list of what to revise from their work. In my final year, I faced it myself. The first one, was the proposal exam, where you are required to present to a set of examiners what you are going to do for your thesis.

I was optimistic. I was too taken by one of my advisor's saying that it was going to be quick and easy. However, it was not. Like a plane, I was shot down. One particular examiner said that my proposal was 'too easy'. Granted, students with GPA higher than 3 (especially 3,5) out of 4 are expected to do something exceptional, even though the term 'exceptional' is wildly ambiguous. So, yeah... I had to change both my thesis title and topic since I didn't want to face the same examiner again. The second time... was at least better than the first one. Both the topic and the title were fine, but the scope was... messy. I wrote it like a story instead of just a pointed list. So, I had to revise and present my proposal for the third time. At that time, I swore to myself to never let my guard down, or expect help from any of my advisors.
Yea, I failed twice. So what?
The story above might scare you, and I even haven't told the story about the exam yet. However, that taught me one thing: It's okay to fail. Nothing bad is going to happen to you, except a short time of being showered by yells and criticisms, and the shame of failure. You're not going to die, you're not going to drop out from the college. So, why do you think it's scary? In fact, statistically speaking, you should be afraid when you drive, or when you cross a road. You could've died doing one of those activities. You've survived this far, which means you're good enough for this. You'll graduate, don't worry. It's just a matter of time.

It's okay to fail. You'll neither die nor drop out. You've survived this far, which means you're good enough to graduate. It's just a matter of time.

You Have Nowhere to Go but to Forward.

This picture is right. No turning back.
The sentence above is my mantra to calm both myself and my friends down before the exam. By forcing yourself to accept the reality, you should have more courage to face it (citation needed, as I'm not a psychologist). Face it, you have nowhere to go but forward, like when you're going over a one-way bridge. Keep going forward, or go backward and fall into a cliff. Or would you rather run by going away from home or commit suicide? That's a choice, but if you did choose them, sorry... but I think you're an idiot.

Yes, sometimes people don't want to face the reality and that's absolutely normal. If a reality doesn't suit someone, he/she will perceive in the best way he/she can that the reality doesn't exist. This happens especially when you're about to be kicked out from your comfort zone. It's okay to complain, to whine, but that won't change anything. There's no turning back. Whatever happens, you can only go forward.

It's okay to complain, to whine, but that won't change anything. The only way to go is forward.

Prepare for The Worst... and Stay Calm

Don't panic. Stay calm... even when you're being "attacked"
by your examiners.
Usually, when someone finally accepts the reality, it should be easier for him/her to prepare. Another analogy I like to use is when going to a battle. If you retreat, you'll receive a punishment from your faction. If you go unprepared, you'll certainly die. So, what will you do, then? Yes, you'll prepare the best you can to survive. In this case, you'll prepare by studying, reading through your thesis paper. This shouldn't be hard, especially when you do your thesis all by yourself.

So yeah, I'll move on the exam now. Some examiners have a very dark sense of humor. You know, the kind that's funny to them, but it actually makes someone a victim. In this case, we students are the victim. Sure, it's still a joke at the end of the day, but it will still scare the hell out of us. When this happens, don't worry, don't be panic–just stay calm. These examiners are there to test you, not to make you fail. So, prove them that you're good enough to pass.

"How the Hell am I going to stay calm? It's a slaughter in there!" says so many people who are about to face the exam. I was one of those people, too. I felt panic, I felt, "Dang, can I really get through it?" That's normal, don't worry. People worry when they're about to face something big, and there's probably no way to control it, unless you're used to talking in front of a big audience.

The best you can do is to relax before your exam. Try to play games, have fun, hang out with your friends. I'm sure that if you do your thesis on your own, you won't have to worry about not being able to answer your examiners' questions. According to your circumstances, it may be even better to try not to care about your final results. Why, because based on my experience... and my friends', that will take some burden off our backs. We have nothing to lose, and there's only one simple goal in mind: graduate. That's easy, isn't it?
Relax before the exam. You've done your best. And it may even better to try simplifying your goal: graduate.

Be Smart-Honest

 ...And finally, here's the final advice I can give you. During your exam, be honest... but be smart. What does that mean? Well, that means if you don't know, just answer that you do not know. That's honesty, but don't do that too much. Sometimes, occasionally, try answering by first saying "I don't understand the topic completely, but in my opinion ...". What's smart, then? Well, smart means stay straight to your logic, do not waver, and try to answer the question right-on.

Why be smart and honest? Because this is a test, an examination. Honesty is needed to stop the examiners from asking about a certain topic further, while smartness is needed to measure whether you do this thesis yourself, and whether you understand your thesis topic.

For honesty, imagine this scenario: you are asked about something that you don't cover in your thesis, and you don't understand what is being asked, yet you pretend to understand. I'm certain that the examiners won't stop at that. They will continue asking about that particular topic and you'll have to keep pretending. When you're wrong, you'll see your grade falling.

For smartness, imagine this scenario: your examiners keep giving you statements, in which you'll need to respond with true or false. If you answer consistently, which means correctly, you'll pass. If you don't, I'm pretty sure your examiners will land another strike at your grade. Inconsistency in your answer reflects to you not completely understanding about your thesis topic.

Be smart and consistent, yet honest... for they reflect your valor and understanding on your thesis.

Wrap-Up

Well, based on my experience, that's all the advice I can give you. I hope you'll find it useful. Remember, thesis examination only happens once in your life, so enjoy it. Don't fret too much over it. It's just an end of another phase in your life. Study well, relax before the exam, and you'll do just fine.

Hopefully, one of these guys will be you.
Finally, thanks for visiting and I hope you'll graduate soon! :)

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