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How To Mentally Prepare Yourself For An Exam

Nothing is worse than studying for weeks for an exam, and then, when the time comes, your mind goes blank and you forget everything you studied for! It is extremely disappointing to see that we received a grade lower than we expected even though we put so much effort into studying. I know that we’ve all been through this at least once. I’ve been through this multiple times, especially during a science or math exam. We tend to pressure ourselves to get full marks on a test and get very sad when it doesn’t happen; this can lead to anxiety during the exam and not focusing properly during questions. Luckily, I’m here to help! This article will provide you with tips and advice for you to calm yourself down before, during and after an exam.

1. Make sure you get enough sleep the night before your test

A tired mind cannot perform at the best of its ability. Pulling an all-nighter or studying until 3:00 am though may give the impression to others that you are dedicated, is not the answer for you to get top marks on a test. You need to get enough rest. If you didn’t finish studying until 11 pm it is better to leave it; get a rest and then maybe before the exam, read a quick summary of what you still didn’t revise or use flashcards (aka miracles from heaven). When getting enough sleep, you’ll see that it is easier to remember the answers to the exam.

2. Take some meaningful time to study

It makes no sense to say that the test is impossible and that you’ll fail if you didn’t study enough. Don’t study the day before the exam, you need time to understand the topic and the parts you struggle most with. Don’t be scared to ask your teachers for help and make sure you tell them you’re struggling with the subject; they can help you clear any doubts you have!

Organize yourself and your timetable to have enough time to study AND complete your other assignments. I know, it may seem impossible, I used to think like this, however, try creating a timetable from the time you get home until the time you sleep, creating slots of an hour each to study, another hour to do homework, half an hour to rest, etc. This could be an example:

Stressing for an exam often is common because we have the thought that we won’t have enough time to prepare. Try creating time blocks to focus on specific topics to study for; that way, no topic will be missed!

3. Leave your cell phone away from you and take breaks

What is the effectiveness of studying for 2 hours non stop if you get distracted every 10 minutes by your cell phone? It is more effective if you shorten those study hours to 45 minutes or an hour and have a 10-minute break in between them. That way, studying becomes more efficient and productive! Remember to leave your cellphone or devices away from you; it is a huge temptation to have your cell phone right next to you when you are studying for maths! Your TikTok’s can wait but your math grade can’t!

4. Take snack breaks

When studying, your brain consumes energy, therefore, a 5-minute break to eat a healthy snack may sound like a good idea to produce more fuel for your brain.

5. Eat healthy foods

Who never got worried for an exam and discounted their anxiety on food? Eating overly processed foods and sweets though may seem a good way to relieve stress, actually makes your progress slower. Though it may seem weird, eating healthy foods can be beneficial to you before an exam. Eating too many junk foods and overly processed foods can make you unproductive; invest in vegetables and fruits. These types of foods have meaningful nutrients that can boost your brain activity.

6. Study past papers and re-do activities

When we study past papers we have a slight idea of the structure of the exam and what can come. Re-doing activities is also a good way of studying for an exam, especially re-doing the questions you struggle most with and get wrong; this way, you’ll know what to do in order to get the questions correct in the exam.

7. Organise your notes

Studying is not enough if you don’t organise your notes. You should organise your studies into subtopics, charts, bullet points and even diagrams. Also, remember to always highlight the most important pieces of information that will aid you in the time of the exam, but don’t highlight everything (though it is so tempting) because it will be useless, not to mention the fact that it looks messy (if you care about making your notes look Pinterest worthy).

8. Get a study buddy

If you’re someone like me who loves talking and can start a conversation on the creation of life on earth, then I think this tip is not for you. If you’re NOT someone like me and know when is the time to focus, then you should listen to this. Finding a study buddy makes revision more enjoyable and interactive, as long as you actually focus on studying.

9. Do NOT compare yourself to others

It doesn’t matter if one of your classmates did 100 pages of notes on the subject you are studying for, that doesn’t mean you are less prepared for the exam. If you covered everything you need to cover for and you have all your doubts cleared, you are fine! Remember, quality over quantity!! Don’t compare yourself to others; you are all different and have different ways of studying.

10. Have a positive attitude!

Studies have shown that if you are confident in the preparations for your exams, the chances of performing well are higher! 10 minutes before the exam, fill your mind with positive thoughts, attitudes and find yourself in a positive environment. If you see that people around you are filled with anxiousness and negative thoughts (especially before the exam), it is better if you don’t get influenced by these types of thoughts and end up getting distracted by them at the time of the exam.

11. Believe in yourself

Exam stress often comes from the fear of making mistakes. There will always be one or two questions that you won’t fully know. That is completely fine, it doesn’t mean you’ll fail or get a bad grade. If you’ve studied and gone through all your notes, then you have nothing to worry about!

12. Relax!

As much as it may look like, a test is not the end of the world. If you get a bad grade in this one, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure at life or that Yale will never accept you. Mistakes happen and they are supposed to happen! You survived many tests before and I’m sure you’ll survive this one as well.

I really hope this article comes in handy for you when studying for an exam (and honestly for me too since IGCSE’s are coming up). Remember to follow all these tips and believe in yourself. Don’t get sad if you got a 4, or you were expecting a better grade, you’ll have a chance to get better next time! However, don’t put the blame on not getting a good grade in a test on your emotional state when you didn’t study at all and tried to cram a whole unit into your brain at 3 am. And don’t try to soften your teacher’s stone heart with your tears because you didn’t go well (believe me, years of attempts and it still doesn’t work). Studying is NECESSARY to go well on an exam. With that being said, I hope everyone follows this advice and ace all of their exams!!

FLASHCARDS that can help:



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