In the last of our mini-series on exams and revision, we’re focusing today on how to be as effective as you can now the big day is finally here …

Pack your things the night before

Get all your things ready the night before: pen, pencil, rubber, pencil sharpener, battery-operated calculator if allowed, ruler…etc. If you’re arriving early and have safe storage available nearby, you may want to have your phone and some notes with you, but these won’t be allowed in the exam – for obvious reasons – so you may prefer to leave them at home.

When you’re packing, check any lists that you’ve been given to ensure that you only have what you are allowed to take in and only the correct number of items – e.g. two pens. Then pay particular attention to ambiguous items such as pencil cases which may only be allowed if they are see-through.

Get a good night’s sleep

We can’t tell you to go to bed early if you’re just going to toss and turn, but certainly make sure that you are well rested and not up all night cramming: being over-tired will not help you at all in the actual exam! Make time for a bath, perhaps a warm bedtime drink and avoid distractions such as your phone, social media or friends. Keep calm, sleep well and wake up rested and ready to go!

Eat sensibly

Aside from a small bottle of water, it’s unlikely that you’ll be allowed to take food into an exam so please eat sensibly in advance, avoid energy drinks and avoid any food that will potentially ‘weigh you down’. There are plenty of websites offering tips on the sort of healthy fresh things to eat and drink to help you stay focussed – they’re worth a look.

Arrive early

Just like an interview, you do not want to arrive late or flustered. Allow plenty of time to get there, find the right room and check a few last minute revision notes. Ideally aim to then be outside the exam room – usually a hall – 10-15 minutes early. And if it’s difficult to study at home, why not arrive super-early and do an hour of final revision before the exam, just as long as you allow for a vital rest break before you go in.

Find a quiet space

Once in the building, I’d recommend staying on your own as much as possible before the final few minutes because that avoids any last minute panic when one of your friends says they’ve revised a topic which is ‘bound to come up’, but you’ve not even looked at it. Whether it is in the exam or not is irrelevant because there isn’t time for you to revise the subject and it could very well affect your overall confidence and state of mind before you go in.

Prepare mentally

The night before – and on the day – try to make space to relax your mind and clear away any negative or panicky thoughts which might be making you tense or anxious. Stop overthinking – believe me, I know! And try to focus on the task ahead as well as what you need to achieve.

Imagine that you’re at a ten pin bowling alley and it’s your turn. You’d be choosing the best ball to use, thinking about the line you’d want to take to maximise your chances of knocking down all the pins and whether you’d need to spin the ball as well. This is all part of your preparation and may include visualising all ten pins crashing to the floor and ‘Strike’ flashing on the screen above your head for all to see!

In the same way, try to picture yourself in the exam, reading the questions carefully before you start and planning how best to tackle the paper in the time allowed.

Answer the question

Remember the poems I mentioned in an earlier revision blog? I had learned how to compare them and if I had done that in the exam I would have barely had any marks. Instead I had to use the content that I had memorised and turn it around to ensure that I answered the question which was asking me to contrast them instead. I passed with a good grade, but it could have been so different even with the same level of knowledge. Grades can be affected by technique on the day as much as by revision.

Behaviour during an exam

Just as a reminder: do not disturb others! From the minute you walk into the room to the minute you leave, everything is in complete silence except for the person in charge: the invigilator. If you need anything, just put up your hand and they will come over to talk to you quietly. If you finish early for any reason, you will not be able to leave the room so use the time to go back over your answers, re-read the question and double-check that you have done your absolute best.

And finally

Exams are not punishments: they are opportunities! They are a chance to show off what you have learned and what you have achieved in your time at school.

In due course, you will get a certificate to prove how well you did rather like an athlete gets a medal for completing a marathon or for winning an event. Most importantly, you will use that certificate for the rest of your life to show future employers when applying for jobs.

So even at the last minute, concentrate your hardest; dig deep and find the determination to do your absolute best! If you cannot remember something during the exam, it could just be nerves so take pause for breath and perhaps leave a gap until it pops back into your head a few minutes later.

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