What to do on the day of an exam

Do's and don'ts when the big day arrives

You attended classes all semester. In the weeks and days before the exam, you studied and reviewed more intensively. Now the day of the exam is here. By following a few mental, physical, and psychological strategies, you can get an even higher score. Here are some basic tips for those crucial few hours. Clearly, what you do on this day can make or break your grade!

Physical Strategies

Sleep: Get enough sleep the night before the exam. If you’re dull-headed because of a lack of sleep, you won’t be able to perform at your best. Sleep a few extra hours instead of studying a few extra hours.

Food: Eat moderately before your exams; avoid a heavy meal. If you eat too much, your brain will have to devote energy to the process of digestion. On the other hand, if you skip a meal altogether, your brain will have inadequate fuel to function well. Aim for nutritional balance and moderation.

Alcohol: Don’t drink the night before your exam. Alcohol upsets the chemical balance in your body and affects the way your brain functions. It could also give you a hangover, which would be a serious difficulty on exam day!

Drinks: Avoid drinking diuretics that contain caffeine such as coffee, tea or cola, which could make you need to use the washroom more often.

Water: Your body and your brain need water. Research has proven that your brain performs more efficiently when well-hydrated. Drink enough water, but not so much that you need to use the washroom.

Temperature: The aim is to be as comfortable as possible during your exam so you’re not distracted by physical needs or concerns. Take a sweater or jacket along in case of excessive air-conditioning or lack of sufficient heating. Choose a seat near a window for fresh air, if possible, but also avoid the window if there’s a lot of noise outside. Arriving early may allow you to select the seat you feel most comfortable in.

Breathing: Deep breathing involves breathing slowly and deeply. Start by inhaling through your nose. Make sure your chest does not expand – if it does you are breathing in a shallow way.

Instead, expand your belly with each breath, while your chest remains unchanged. Try to reach a count of 6 on each in breath, and 6 on each out breath. When you have mastered this process, you can add a pause of 6 seconds between the inhaling and exhaling breath.

Apply Brain Gym techniques: This program of simple exercises can enhance learning and performance by improving the brain’s neural pathways. Students of all ages have achieved higher test scores after engaging in a short brain gym session. Learn more about these simple techniques and give yourself an edge.

Psychological Techniques

Positive Visualization: This is a powerful psychological technique that can be used to enhance your positive feelings and diminish the negative ones. It is based on the fact that the mind and body are powerfully interconnected. You can create changes in your heart rate, skin temperature, and brainwave patterns by the thoughts you evoke. You can use this information to your advantage before and during your exam. Imagine a positive outcome; see yourself doing well, recalling the information easily and remaining clam and in control.

Handling Anxiety: Practice deep breathing techniques if you find yourself becoming nervous or overwhelmed. By breathing correctly, you can provide your brain with fuel to help it perform better.

Arrive early: This will help you avoid unnecessary stress in the immediate period before your exam. Allow for traffic, check the weather reports for exam day, or even travel to an external exam location in advance to get an idea of how long it will take you to travel there on the day of the exam.

Avoid nervous students: While waiting for the exam to begin, avoid speaking to any nervous students and absorbing their negative energy. It’s preferable to stay confident and focused on doing well on the exam.

Bring necessary materials: Keep extra materials such as pens, pencils, calculators, rulers, or compasses packed and ready the night before the exam so you have time to locate or even purchase any misplaced or lost items. Knowing you have everything you need will make you feel calmer and well-prepared.

Mental Strategies

Review output: If you have some time before the exam, use it to review material and practice your output. Don’t try to learn new material at this stage.

Stay for the entire exam: Stay for the full length of the exam. Even if you feel you cannot recall any more, by relaxing or waiting in the exam hall, information and details might come to mind and enable you to score additional points. On exams, every point counts.

Read directions: Make sure you focus on reading the directions carefully. This is the most common avoidable mistake made by students. Don’t let it happen to you.

Read each question: Really read what you are being asked to do on each question. Don’t presume it’s the angle you’re familiar with. Reread to see what you’re actually being asked and remember that exams change all the time, so questions that appeared in the past may differ from those given in the present.

Focus on yourself: Don’t look around at how other students are doing. It may appear that you’re trying to cheat and it will just distract you from your main task which is to do as well as possible on your exams.

Budget your time: Check how much each question counts towards your final mark and spend time on each answer accordingly. If you have a choice to write your answers in any order, do the easy ones first to build up your confidence.