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How to prepare on the day of an exam

By Charlie Hale on 1 August 2018Exam adviceHSCNSWblog

Sweat, tears and hopefully zero blood (but you never know) has gone into this exam prep, and now it’s D-Day, time to shine. There’s not one thing you can do to ensure that all that hard work is going to pay off, but a good pre-performance routine is going to ensure the odds are in your favour. Follow these 👇 simple tips and those crucial final hours will be used to their best effect.

Get your cereal superpower

Is all the advice we write on this blog given in clichés? We’re beginning to think so… But to add to the collection: eat your breakfast, because it really is the most important meal of the day. This is especially true on the morning of an exam. Studies have shown that eating a bowl of cereal can help improve memory and concentration over the course of the morning. And what’s more, other researchers have found that those who eat a cereal breakfast regularly are “less emotionally distressed and have lower levels of perceived stress” compared with those who do not.

For goodness sake don’t be late

How to make an exam even more stressful 101: Step 1 = be late. This one is a no-brainer, but make sure you leave plenty of time; aim for early! Lateness is going to magnify all those nerves and give you the worst possible start.

Avoid people who stress you out

It’s pretty easy to get sucked into swapping exam techniques and exchanging notes at the final hour, but take our advice and avoid people who are particularly negative or who stress you out immediately before an exam. Seek out friends who are going to help you feel calm and confident and ignore the last-minute frenzy of ‘fact checking’ at the exam room door.

Remind yourself of all your hard work and preparation

Most of us conscientious lot will never feel like we’ve done enough revision. But the fact of the matter is, you’ve done a heck of a lot to get to this point. Remind yourself of all those hours you’ve slaved over your chemistry folder, it’s a great way to boost your confidence and reassure your nerves before going into the exam. If you’ve had previous success with exams, that’s not a bad thought to keep in mind as well!

Pause for a minute and take some deep breaths

We’ve spoken a lot about pressure and the often weird (and sometimes wonderful) things it can do to our brains. One of pressure’s main characteristics is making us think we have less time than we do, which – of course – makes us rush and inevitably leads to sloppy mistakes. So before you go in, take a few deep breaths and curb that pressure before it has the chance to get the better of you. This is also a really great exercise to do during the exam, and particularly when you come across a question you can’t answer straight away. It prompts you to slow down, lowers your heart rate and reduces all that tension you can feel gripping your body, making it hella easier to access the situation and plan the best course of action.

Remind yourself of your exam strategy

Back to the pressure thing: when you’re under stress, you’re probably going to be thinking in terms of “I must get X amount of marks in this exam”. But instead of thinking in marks and grades, concentrate on your exam strategy. That’s going to keep you focused and a good exam strategy will take care of the marks, so you don’t have to stress about them. This might mean tackling the biggest questions first, planning your long responses, or reading every question three times before answering. If you don’t have an exam strategy, discuss it with your teacher and come up with something that’s going to work for you. If that’s not an option, think back to your past papers – if you faltered on time management, for example, your exam strategy will focus on that.

Final thought

When you have spent so much time stuck behind a revision calendar, it’s weirdly easy to forget that the main event is the exam. Nothing can ever guarantee success, but by getting behind the tips above, you’re going to give yourself the best chance of demonstrating all that hard work at the time when it really matters.

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