Going to School With NMO: Taking Closed-Book, Memory Based Exams

It has been almost three years since I’ve had any real exams in school. For the past two years, due to Covid and my NMO diagnosis, I did not have any closed-book exams. It was mostly assignments where there was no reliance on my memory. I could look up everything on the internet or in law books to help me complete the assignment. But this time, taking exams with NMOSD was different.

Getting through exams with NMOSD

Covid-19 isn’t taken as seriously as it was when the first outbreak occurred. Life is going back to ‘normal’ for all of us. I have to attend university 3 or 4 times a week in person this semester, something I haven't been used to doing since I was in high school, 17 years old, and without a chronic illness.

Test anxiety takes on a whole new meaning

When I was first told that I had to take these exams in order to pass the year, I was extremely worried. First of all, my writing is awful ever since NMOSD came around. The tremors play a big part in that. My arms are weaker than before my attack. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to write as much as I needed to, to pass. Every exam consists of at least 2 to 3 essays which are around 2 to 4 pages long. How was I going to do that?!!

And what if I got sick?

Another thing I was worried about was falling ill before the exam period. You don’t get away with saying you can’t make it to the exam! You have to sit it regardless! As we all know, NMOSD is so unpredictable, and stress is my biggest trigger. What if the stress of studying and traveling to university got too much and I couldn’t sit the exam at all?

Asking for disability accommodations for NMO

One thing I did when I applied to university informed the school that I had a disability and long-term illness which would affect my ability to attend lectures and sit exams.

Luckily, they took that into consideration and had me take my exam in a separate room with other people with disabilities. We all got 25% extra time. It made me feel much better about not missing out on answering the questions just because my body was failing on me. However it was still memory based.

Remembering my memory before NMOSD

Pre-NMOSD, my memory was okay - but not the best. I could easily memorize important topics for exams even if I forgot them after the exam. I would still remember the right information to sit the actual exam. It was different this time.

Memorizing for exams with NMOSD does not come easily

I spent days constantly repeating things in order to remember information. When the time came to answer the questions I forgot a few things. It took a while for things to pop up in my head due to my brain fog but I still wrote quite a bit. My arms did get sore after writing a few sentences so I made sure I took a few breaks during the exam.

Preparing for exam day

I ate a good breakfast before my exam for energy. I had painkillers in my bag just incase the pain got unbearable.

...But it's harder to prepare for the NMO flare ups

In general, the exam period along with the cold weather has been the worst for me, regarding flare-ups. I haven’t been in this much pain in a good while. I’m sure it’s because of the stress of my exams and the bad weather. My MS hug symptom also came back during this period!

The constant writing has given me achy arms which are so painful. My left leg has been in the most pain. During my last exam, my neuropathic itch on the hand I write with flared up. That was awful! But I had to ignore it in order to get everything I needed down on paper. Just incase I forgot it after. I’m just glad i’ve got my exams out the way for now, so I can stay away from the cold weather - until university starts again.

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