Preparing for Exams

 

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The Night Before

  • Prepare everything you need for the following day. This includes the clothes you are going to be wearing, equipment you will need such as pens, pencils, calculator, bottle of water.
  • Have a good meal, avoid alcohol / caffeine.
  • Don't spend the evening revising. If you feel you need to, minimum 30 minutes scanning any basic notes.
  • Plan to have a relaxing evening and aim to go to bed at a reasonable hour. Maybe have a bath to help you unwind or listen to calming music – whatever works for you.
  • Plan your journey.
  • Aim to get yourself there with 10 minutes to spare – waiting around for too long increases anxiety.
  • Set alarm – make sure you have enough time to get ready in the morning without rushing. If your exam is in the afternoon, don't get up too early / too late. Too early and you may feel tired and there's a risk of trying to cram last minute revision; too late and you are likely to panic. Either way increases stress.

On the Morning

  • Eat! Your brain needs food! Make sure that you have breakfast, even if it's just some toast / cereal. If your exam is in the afternoon, don't have a heavy lunch as you may feel sleepy / your concentration levels may suffer.
  • Avoid too much caffeine.
  • On journey, utilise breathing and distraction techniques to reduce stress levels.

Arriving at the Exam

  • Don't hang around with other people who are panicking - it can be infectious!
  • The moment has arrived! "You may begin the exam paper". It's normal to look at the exam paper and for a moment feel overcome. You don't understand any of the questions let alone the answers? You feel yourself about to panic, throw up or rush out of the hall? If this feeling begins to engulf you, take a deliberately long slow breath in to the count of 4 and exhale slowly to the count of 5 and repeat a few times. Relax your breathing and read the questions again.
  • Allow 10 minutes for reading and choosing questions.
  • Allow 10 minutes at the end to read through and add or correct details.
  • Divide rest of time available equally between the questions. Marks tend to be allocated equally between questions so there is no benefit in spending more time on one than another.
  • It may help to write a short plan before you start to answer, listing the key points. If you run out of time it gives the marker a better idea of what you know and they may take them into account.
  • Remember to answer the question properly – what information is the examiner looking for? Look out for key words such as compare; describe; discuss; evaluate; calculate.
  • Don't be fazed by people around you who look confident and cool when you feel that you are staring into thin air. You may have missed them coping with their own panic a moment earlier.
  • If you do find yourself short of time for the last question, answer it in note form. You could be surprised how many marks you will still get.

After the Exam

  • Try not to do a post mortem! Going over or analysing content is not helpful so avoid individuals who you know are likely to do this or change the subject if it arises.
  • It is important to put the exam behind you so leave the area as soon as you can.
  • Congratulate yourself, even if you think that you haven't done particularly well. Positive thinking reduces anxiety. Do something pleasurable such as going for a walk; listening to music; ring a friend / meet them for lunch – anything that you find rewarding and relaxing.​