The Final Countdown

The 24 hours before an exam can be stressful and, when handled poorly, can really hurt your performance during your exam. Here are some ideas to make the final countdown a bit easier for yourself.

The Day Before:

Routine:

  • Try to notice when you start to get hungry during the day. If it’s at a time you’ll be sitting an exam, make sure to pack snacks.
  • Go to bed at a sane hour. That doesn’t mean you should go to bed super early. If you fall asleep at 8pm, you run the risk of waking up from a very refreshing nap at 10pm. Similarly, don’t stay up until 3am.
  • Treat your morning routine as a ‘dry run’ for exam day. That is, try to do everything as you would on the morning of an exam. Get up at the same time, keep your caffeine intake the same, eat the same breakfast etc. This means you’ll know you have enough time tomorrow morning.

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Organisation:

  • Know exactly what you need to bring to your exam and put it all together next to your front door. Try to avoid bringing a bag if you can – you’ll need to leave it outside. Here are some things you will want to pack;
    • Student Card
    • Myki & Concession Card
    • Wallet
    • Pens (multiple colours), highlighters, pencils, calculator, etc.
    • Waterbottle
    • Paracetamol (you do not want a headache during your exam)
    • Snacks; think things you can eat one handed without too much hassle, noise, or smell. A muesli bar, nuts, dried fruit etc.
    • A jacket – temperatures in REB are a bit strange. It can be quite chilly in the morning, but if your seat is under a heater, you will cook
    • Any notes you’re able to bring in
    • An umbrella
  • Set out your clothes for exam day. Try to pick things with lots of pockets so that you can avoid carrying a bag with you.
  • Check your seat number and write it down on a piece of paper. Put the piece of paper with your keys or in your shoes so you can’t forget.
  • Look Journey Planner to plan your public transport to your exam venue. If you know that route is unreliable, aim for the service before the one you need.

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Study:

  • If you literally have no idea what you’re doing, spend some quality time reviewing key concepts. Look at a previous exam and figure out what you would do for each question.
  • If you have put in some decent preparation, don’t spend the day studying. Do some very light revision of the biggest concepts. Read a practice essay you wrote. Look over your notes. The aim of this is to remind yourself that you know what you’re doing. You do not want to get yourself into a panic. You do not want to tire yourself out.
  • ‘Walk through’ the exam in your mind. Picture yourself arriving at REB, walking to your seat, opening your paper. Imagine yourself feeling confident and using your time efficiently. This might seem a bit naff but it can help you control your nerves on the day.
  • Decide what time you want to stop working. Set an alarm on your phone. Then actually stop working at that time. Ideally, decide ahead of time what you’re going to do so that you’re not tempted to keep working.

Relax:

  • Decide whether or not you want to talk to people before the exam. There can be a lot of ‘I am the least prepared, I went to fewer classes, I slept less than anyone,’ talk before an exam. Other people try to figure out what the exam questions will be before you’ve even gone in. Some people find this useful. Some do not. Figure out what’s good for you and plan accordingly.
  • Similarly, figure when you want to arrive. Some people like to get off the bus and walk straight in, other people prefer to spend 20 minutes waiting.
  • Do something physical. Go for a walk, do some yoga, go to the gym. Let your body get tired so that you will sleep better.
  • Do something social. Call a family member, walk with a friend, chat to a dog. This will help take your mind off your exam which, again, will help you sleep better.
  • That said, probably stay off facebook. You don’t need to see that other people are still at the library. Or worse, that they’ve already finished exams.

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Exam Day:

  • If you’ve got yourself organized, the morning of your exam should run relatively smoothly. But if you find yourself getting nervous, just remind yourself of the plan. Say aloud ‘Now I’m eating my breakfast. Next, I will put on my shoes and brush my teeth. I have plenty of time.’
  • Very briefly look over your notes. Again, this isn’t to find gaps in your knowledge, but to remind yourself of the things you know.
  • If you’re a bit nervous, try doing something relaxing. I like using Smiling Mind before I leave the house, but if that’s not for you, maybe listen to some music or do something else nice.
  • Try to notice some nature on your way to your exam. Looking at trees is very soothing and good for your eyes.
  • If something doesn’t go to plan, that’s ok! Maybe the bus is 30 minutes late, maybe someone thinks you’re in their seat, maybe you barely finish your paper, maybe you’re 40 minutes early and it’s raining, maybe you mishear the announcements and start writing during reading time and nearly have your paper destroyed. All these things have happened to me, and it all turned out fine. There is nothing an exam can do that will actually ruin your life.

When it’s all over:

  • You don’t have to talk to people about the exam if you don’t want to. It’s perfectly acceptable to say “Oh well, it’s done now. What are you doing over summer?”
  • Let it go. As tempting as it is, don’t spend the rest of the day thinking about that guy sitting next to you who went through five script books. Do not try to calculate what grade you got. Do something nice for yourself. Have a nap. Go out for coffee.
  • Congratulations! You did it! Have a big smile, even if it didn’t go very well.

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