• Ian Gibbs

Exam Tip #14: Be Prepared


As you get to just a few days before your exams, you can start to give thought to making sure the big day goes as perfectly as possible.


This means being in peak mental state, being completely focussed on your exam and not bothered, stressed or distracted by anything else.


The last thing you want is to arrive at your exam stressed and nervous because you forgot your bag or arrived late.


It’s a good idea to make a list of everything you need to take and everything you ought to have prepared, before it’s too late.


The list sounds obvious.


It is to anyone who isn’t concentrating on their exams.


Such a list might include:


✔ Clothes: Comfortable with zero chance of causing problems.

✔ Stationery: Pens, pencils, highlighters, rulers, etc.

✔ Water: Stay hydrated.

✔ Food: A little something before the exam will help keep energy levels up.

✔ Calculator: Is it of the type allowed? Is it charged? Batteries?

✔ Watch: Is it allowed? Will you need it?

✔ Phone (fully charged): Is it allowed?

✔ Books: What can you take into the exam?

✔ Toiletries: For when nature calls when least welcome.

✔ Others: Keys, glasses, medication, bus pass, train ticket, money, ID, mandalas, lucky mascot.


Make your list and prepare your bag well in advance. Leaving it to the last minute is inviting complications to happen.


Make sure you have all the necessary information, too: time, date, venue, room, exam rules.


If you’re familiar with the place where your exam will be held, great. But some exams are held in different centres.


Check them out in good time to avoid turning up to the wrong place.


Let your family and friends know.


It may seem blatantly obvious to you, but unless you have recently told your family when your exams are, they might not remember.


Again, ask for their support, patience, encouragement and understanding. But don’t overdo it. You are not about to undergo life-threatening brain surgery. They have their own problems, too.


Positive attitude: It’s important to be calm and confident. Avoid situations which risk undermining this state. So lead up to your exams try to avoid getting into arguments.

The Day Before


It’s the day before your first exam(s). Unless you are extremely confident (or, on the other hand, if you couldn’t care less) you will be unable to think of anything else other than your exams.


Your adrenaline levels will be high, causing you to be edgy, excited and slightly erratic.

You’ll find yourself slipping into obsessive-compulsive behaviour.


You might feel anxious.


You might have started stuffing your face with biscuits.


Don’t worry.


This is perfectly normal.


Your revision should now be limited to going over past papers, familiarising yourself with the Exam Specifications and testing yourself on the immense amount of stuff you have learnt.


Spending time with a positive study partner is helpful, too. The social interaction can help keep both of you relatively sane.


And going through past papers discussing your answers is solid pre-exam practice.


Decide a reasonable time to put an end to revision. To put your books down and to give your brain a rest.


Try to relax. Have something to eat, even if you’re not hungry.


Plan what you’re going to wear and set it out before you go to bed.


Plan out tomorrow morning.


Make sure the bathroom will be free for when you need it.


Plan a light and nutritious breakfast.


The whole objective is for tomorrow morning to be smooth and stress-free with as little decision-making as necessary.


Remember: Your mind will be on your exam; things that are normally simple and straightforward can easily be overlooked and cause problems.


Check everything is in its place: bag, keys, etc. Now is the time to worry about where your keys are, not tomorrow morning.


Wind down by doing calm activities.


Have a nice bath. Listen to some soothing music.

Avoid looking at a screen.


Avoid texting friends about the exam.


Avoid bright lighting.


Avoid anything that could get you agitated such as arguments or video games.


Tonight you are the epitome of peace and tranquillity.


You are Captain Chill Out.


It’s also important to get a good night’s sleep, so important I’ve reserved a whole tip just for that. (See next tip #15.)


Tip 14: Make the day of your exam as stress-free as possible by preparing for it well in advance.

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