Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Prepared for your exams? what to do before, during and after . . .

If you’ve got a big exam coming up it’s easy to panic and worry about it, particularly if it’s the night before.

Here are some easy tips to help you manage your nerves and get you prepared for the exam(s) ahead.

The night before your exam


1. Clear your schedule

Make sure you haven’t made plans to go out for extended lengths of time. Ensuring that you’re not busy and have already declined offers to meet with friends or family will remove the temptation to avoid revising.

Short, frequent breaks are good and much-needed to give you time to process information and, if scheduled between topics or units, they can help create a clear divide between your subject content.

If you do find that you have to go out, prepare your hosts that you will need to leave at a reasonable time to give you a chance to finish off your last remaining revision tasks, prep your uniform and bag for the next day and give yourself time to unwind before going to sleep.

2. Eat well
Eating well before your exam
Healthy eating is always a favourable life choice but even more so when you are relying on your body’s

performance. Eating good levels of carbohydrates is advisable to boost your energy levels: multi-grain or wholegrain cereals and bread or high-carb fruits such as bananas are a great choice before your exam as they release energy slowly. Stay clear of sugary snacks such as chocolate bars and carbonated drinks as these will give you a short rush of energy but fade quickly, leaving you tired and unfocused towards the end of your exam.

3. Sleep well

Relaxing the night before your exam can be difficult, particularly if you feel anxious or stressed but making sure you get a good night’s sleep is vital. All-nighters, where you try and make it straight through the night and into your exam the next day may work for a few but the majority of us will severely underperform.

Backed up by a wealth of empirical research, Dr Philip Axapta, Medical Director of the Harris Health Sleep Disorders Center, Texas, USA, has found that, ‘any prolonged sleep deprivation will affect your mood,     energy level and ability to focus, concentrate and learn, which directly affects your academic     performance’.

In an ideal world, revising fully ahead of time will place you in a more relaxed state of mind and you will     find it easier to sleep. But for whatever reason, this might not be the position you’re in, so what else can     you do to ensure you get the 6−8 hours of sleep you need before your exam?

  • Physical exercise: not only offering a much needed break from revision, it’ll also help relax your mind and body.
  • Take a bath: scented bath salts or candles can once again help you to unwind and feel calmer about your exam.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t sleep straight away: instead lie back, switch sides on your pillow and try and clear your mind.
  • Play some music: soft, mellow music played at a very low level again helps you to relax.
4. Don’t panic . . . prepare!

It’s easy for a teacher, parent or friend to say ‘don’t panic’, but it’s honestly true and only you can control your emotions. The approach I use is to organise myself, preparing not only what I need for the day ahead but also how I plan to feel about the day ahead. It may sound strange but the cliché ‘mind over matter’ does have substance. Try using a notepad to write down your concerns and fears, and then set it aside, physically pushing your concerns away and refocusing your mind on what you’re going to achieve.

Morning of your exam


1. Set your alarm

At the risk of stating the obvious, make sure you set your alarm, giving yourself plenty of time to get ready and get to your first exam.

2. Play list

Gym enthusiasts and runners use music and playlists to motivate themselves and help them drive through physical pain. An exam is slightly different, but use music if it helps you to focus, to get inspired and to focus on the exam ahead.

3. Be positive

How you feel about your upcoming exam will have a significant impact on your performance. Be positive.

On your way to the exam or outside the exam room you’ll get friends who are worried and they’ll be focusing on the negatives: what they’ve not covered, what they don’t understand, what they hope doesn’t come up, and so on. It can be easy to fall into this mode and by the time you sit down for your exam you could be in a weak frame of mind.

While nerves are normal and actually often a good thing, try to ignore the fears and doubts of others. Instead, focus on the positives and look to encourage each other rather than dwelling on what could go wrong. Think about all the classroom hours of work you’ve put in to get to this point – after all that time and effort, now is your opportunity to showcase what you’ve learnt.

After your exams


Once your exam is over it’ll be impossible to ignore the feedback from friends – but don’t expect perfection. With all essay questions you will have different points of views, you will have drawn upon different theorists and concepts, you may even have a totally different standpoint on a particular statement. Don’t linger on this and try not to think about the answers your friends gave; provided you feel like you put in 100 per cent effort and did your best, then that is all anyone could’ve asked for. Now is the time to start enjoying the prospect of an exam-free summer!
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