If you read my last article then the weeks leading up to your exam should have been easy and stress-free. However, despite how confident you may be, it’s easy to slip back into stress when exam day actually hits. That’s why in this final part, I’m going to be discussing how to deal with stress the day of the exam, as well as the night before.
1.) Don’t study the day before the exam
This may sound counter-intuitive, but when we think in terms of cognitive resources then this tip makes more sense. As I mentioned in the last article, you only have a finite amount of cognitive resources. This is why I suggested taking breaks in between studying to recharge your cognitive abilities.
This is all well and good, but when it’s finally time to sit down and do the exam it’s only logical that you’d want all of your cognitive power at your disposal. Now, if you’ve been following any of my other studying articles, then you should be well prepared and won’t be cramming in all the knowledge at the last minute. Even so, at least spend the week leading up to the exam studying, and then you can take the day before the exam off.
The idea behind taking the day off, is that a day away from your studies will help relax you and take your mind off the exams. Like you would during study breaks, do something that helps you wind down. If you do this, you’ll be a lot more refreshed the day off the exam. This brings us to our next point…
2.) Get plenty of sleep
I’d urge you not to party at least a week before the exam. Nights out mess with your sleeping patterns, and you want to be in a good rhythm to have a healthy night’s sleep. Some tips for getting a good night’s sleep would be to turn off all electronic devices at least an hour before bed. Too much stimulation will sabotage your sleep and you will not be rested for the exam. Likewise, if you can’t sleep don’t stress out about it, just accept it.
And remember you can always down a red bull in the morning, if you need it. Not the healthiest option, sure, but there’s nothing wrong with some caffeine therapy from time to time.
3.) Move on if you can’t answer a question
So now you’re in the exam hall, you’ve got plenty of sleep and things are going well. Then a question hits you that you just can’t answer it. There’s nothing worse then when your mind goes blank mid-exam. When this happens, we often start stressing out and racking our brains for the answer. It is important at this point to just take a step back for a moment, take a few deep breaths and move on to the next question. I’m not saying skip the question, no. Just go back to the unanswered questions once you’ve finished the paper. Otherwise you’re just going to get bogged down by one mistake and waste a lot of valuable time.
4.) Practice mindfulness
Often a concept portrayed in Buddhism, mindfulness is the practice of being purely in the present moment. Now, you don’t need to be a zen monk to practice this. It’s as simple as just focusing on your breathing and bodily sensations. So when you feel yourself getting stressed out, just close your eyes and focus on your breathing for a minute or two.
It sounds silly, but trust me – it works.
5.) Don’t time watch too much
Yes, it’s important to work out how much time you have in the exam, this isn’t a problem. You should check the time every now and then just to make sure you’re on track. However, it becomes a problem when you start excessively checking the time. This will just increase stress levels, and is also counter-intuitive.
Think about it like this: all that time spent looking at the clock could be spent working on your exam, or even just clearing your head for a few moments.
All in all…
I’d say, fundamentally, the one thing to take from this article is that you should just keep a clear, level head when facing an exam. So stay relaxed and keep you mind clear. Make sure that you’re physically well, (that means get good sleep and eat healthy) and, whatever you do, don’t roll up to the test hungover.
Takes these tips on board and I guarantee you’ll be fine.
By Thomas Anderson