No matter how prepared you are for your exams, we understand the last-minute panic that you might be experiencing in the final few days leading up to your end-of-term or end-of-year exams. On the day before your exam, however, prepared you are in terms of revision, there are lots that you can do to help the next day go as smoothly as possible.
Here are our top tips on everything you can do, focussing on sleep, diet, distraction elimination and last-minute prep.
Day before exam preparation: our 6 top tips
TIP 1: Write a day before the exam To-Do list
The final 24 hours before your exam should not be used for taking in new information if you can avoid it. It might be a good idea to start this day by writing a list of everything you want or need to achieve so that you can go to bed that night feeling like you have everything covered and everything ready and good to go in the morning. Your checklist could include, for example:
- Do you need to gather up a few things to take into the exam – black ink pens, a clear pencil case, a bottle of water, or any documentation you need to show before you enter?
- If it’s an early start in the morning, it might be a good idea to pack your bag or even lay your clothes out so you can get up and go. Doing this might mean you sleep better too.
- How are you getting to your exam if it’s not where you normally study? It’s a good idea to plan this now to avoid panicking about not having enough time to get there in the morning.
- Will you need to set more than a couple of alarms if it’s an early start? You might even want to set yourself a ‘get to bed’ alarm so you don’t get too carried away studying until the early hours of the morning.
- If you don’t already have some, add picking up some breakfast for the morning of your exam to your list. You’ll need it to focus. Plus, a walk to the shops on the day before can only be a good thing.
- And finally, do you need to gather up your revision notes for a final read-through? You might want to use these to make someday before exam notes as a final revision session.
TIP 2: Get a good night’s sleep
Probably the most important tip on our list – being well-rested on the day of your exam will work wonders for your memory and your mood. So, don’t sacrifice your precious sleep time to cram in new information. Plus, research has shown that sleep helps to cement what we learn in our minds. So any final revision you’re doing the day before your exam will be of much better use to you on the day if you’ve had a decent sleep. What a decent night’s sleep is differs for everyone, but you should be aiming for at least 6 and a half hours. Sleep will be of better quality if your room is at a cooler temperature and as dark and quiet as you can make it.
If you’re feeling jittery already and concerned about falling asleep, take some time to get yourself ready for bed – take a bath if you have one, sit and read or listen to quiet music. The key is to avoid too much stimulation, so be sure to keep off your phone before going to bed. Good sleep is especially important if you get particularly anxious before an exam. One of the key tools to help tackle stress management is being well-slept. Your nervous system will thank you for it when you’re at your desk waiting for your paper to arrive.
TIP 3: Avoid too much caffeine
It’s easily done – you want to be in an alert state so you can keep studying and stay engaged with your revision. But, try not to go overboard with coffee or caffeinated energy drinks as they’ll affect your body in a detrimental way. Energy rushes often prevent you from taking in information or focusing and they’re usually followed by energy crashes, and that’s not what you want to be experiencing on the day before or day of your exam. Plus, if you drink more than your body is used to, your sleep will almost certainly be affected too.
Instead, drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated does wonders for brain function.
TIP 4: Fuel yourself properly
As well as staying hydrated, what you eat the day before your exam is more important than you’d expect. You need to keep your energy levels up and consistent, but you should avoid lots of sugar or carbs that might mean you crash later on. So, enjoy a healthy, nutritious meal which will help support brain function as well as keep you full and satisfied – veg, a small number of carbs, and research shows that oily fish helps with memory. Make sure breakfast on the day of your exam is something that will keep you full for the duration of your exam. You don’t want to be distracted by your tummy rumbling halfway through.
TIP 5: Make use of your classmates
Studying is usually most effective when done on your own, in a quiet space. But, there is also something to be said for group study sessions. You can compare notes, test each other, and fill each other in on the parts you haven’t spent so much time looking into. Even with a limited syllabus, each of you will most likely be experts in different topics. So, use this to your advantage by getting together and sharing knowledge in this way. You never know what nuggets of information your peers will have picked up on that you haven’t that might be crucial for your exam paper.
Plus, a change of environment will be a refreshing way to spend some of the days before your exam. Getting together in this way might also relieve some of the stress you may be feeling – you’re all in it together.
Keep the numbers small to remain focused. Or, you could try buddying up with someone you feel you’ll get a lot from and vice versa.
TIP 6: Eliminate distractions
If you’re living with other students, they might be preparing for exams too and so the household might be a quiet one already. But if not, try not to let yourself be distracted by those you live with – whether that’s your housemates, parents or siblings. It’s all too easy to procrastinate by getting caught up in conversation with whoever is around, so let them know that you want to keep to yourself for a day or two until you get your exam out of the way. If that’s difficult to do, consider spending your final day somewhere quiet like the library where distractions will naturally be limited.
For most students, the main distraction they’ll experience is social media. It’s only 24 hours – consider deleting the apps that you spend the most time on like Instagram, Tik Tok etc. We all know how hours and hours can slip by when scrolling on apps like these and at this point, every hour will count when it comes to your exam prep. Apps like these are made to be addictive, but try to remind yourself that the content will still be there in a couple of days. Plus, you can treat it as a reward when you get home after your exam. Eliminating so much screen time will most likely have a positive effect on your sleep too.