top of page

Exam preparation tips

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

Examiner standing in from the blackboard with the word exam

As the end of the year approaches, everyone starts to look forward to December. December marks a well-earned break and a chance to re-calibrate and start again refreshed in the new year. But we are not quite through the woods yet! November brings the final stretch for students and scholars alike. Whether you are in school or university, exams are fast approaching!

Right now, many students are feeling the pressure to perform well, or at least to just to pass! With so much riding on the outcome of the end of year exams, it's no wonder that many students experience anxiety and stress. This can interfere with their ability to study and perform their best. In this blog, we'll discuss various aspects of preparing for exams, including managing anxiety, study habits, and self-care. These exam preparation tips will help you to study your way to exam success. Let's dive in!

Guidelines for studying for success

If you're feeling stressed or anxious about your upcoming exams, there are a few things you can do to manage your emotions and improve your chances of success.

1. Understand that is normal to be stressed

Student stressed while preparing for an exam

The first step to managing exam stress is to understand that it's a normal part of the exam experience. Everyone feels some degree of stress before an exam, but it's important to not let it overwhelm you. It's essential to recognise these feelings and learn how to manage them effectively. If these emotions are severe or interfere with your ability to study and perform well in your exams, it's important to seek professional help.

These emotions can be caused by a variety of factors, such as:

  • Fear of failure.

  • Pressure to perform well.

  • Lack of confidence in one's abilities.

  • Unrealistic expectations.

  • Lack of preparation which leads to exhaustion caused by last minute cramming for exams.

2. Study Breaks tips during exam preparation: How Often Should You Take Them?

While studying is crucial, it's equally important to take regular breaks. Experts recommend the Pomodoro technique, where you study for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break and get up and move around to relax and clear your head. This approach can help improve focus and prevent burnout. Taking regular breaks during your study sessions is essential for maintaining focus and retaining information. This will help prevent burnout and keeps your mind sharp.

3. Switching between study tasks

While study breaks are important, taking a break between subjects is just as important. Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman discusses the phenomena of “task switching” – the act of switching from one task to another. Huberman recommends that you take a short break when switching tasks. The same can be applied in your study routine when you switch from studying one subject to the next.

Once you have finished a study task and are ready to move to a new subject, it’s time to take a break. The break itself should not constitute a mental task! So, put down your cell phone and give yourself a few minutes to disengage. You may need a bit of extra time if your last study session was very long and intense. Once you have done this, your mind will be ready to engage in a new subject.

4. Get enough sleep

Student who as fallen asleep while studying

Don't underestimate the power of a good night's sleep. Proper Sleep is essential for learning and memory consolidation, yes learning actually happens while you are sleep! Although for some students, especially those in university, a good night’s sleep can feel like a distant memory, try to avoid cramming all night the night before your exams – a well-rested mind is more likely to perform at its best. If at all possible, aim to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night leading up to your exams. When you're well-rested, you're better able to focus and concentrate, you may even remember facts from a long-past lecture that you didn’t put in your study notes.

5. Exercise regularly

You might feel that you’re too tired to exercise during the drudge of studying. But here’s the thing about exercise. The more energy you use exercising, the more energy you have to study! Physical activity isn't just beneficial for your body; it's also great for your brain. Exercise improves your mood, reduces stress, boosts concentration, and enhances cognitive function. Find a physical activity you enjoy and make it a part of your daily routine. Even a short walk or quick workout can make a significant difference.

It’s often said that 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most days of the week can make a huge difference. Alternatively, short bursts of high intensity exercise can save time and give you the boost you need. According to health expert Dr. Rhonda Patrick, even short 10 minute high intensity exercise sessions that are built into your study routine can save the day.

Student doing exercise in between studies

6. Nutrition for Success

Ask any High school or university student what the best foods are to help you through the exams, and the answer, most likely will be popcorn, chocolate, and coke! These may feel like soul food, but your brain disagrees! Eating a healthy diet will give you the energy you need to focus and study effectively.

Foods rich in brain-boosting nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, can enhance your cognitive abilities. Although this may sound like an impossibility, try to drink a lot of water, and avoid excessive caffeine, sugary drinks, and processed foods. Instead focus on eating plenty of protein, vegetables, and whole grains. Snack on fruit and nuts.

Delivery man delivering food that will keep a student healthy

7. Create a study schedule and stick to it

One of the best ways to reduce exam anxiety is to be prepared. Create a well-structured study timetable that will help you stay organised and on track. Be sure to outline what you need to learn and when you need to learn it. Be realistic about how much time you have to study and break down the material into manageable chunks. Allocate time for each subject and set specific goals. Then stick to your study plan and be consistent in your routine.

Avoid procrastination and make sure to schedule in time for breaks, relaxation, exercise, mealtimes, and sleep. Not everyone is a born time-manager. If you struggle to create effective schedules you may need to turn to someone for help. This could be a friend, a parent, a lecturer or a tutor who is skilled in exam and study techniques.

8. Don't be afraid to ask for help

Stressed student getting a supportive hug during exams

The following reasons may be the cause of exam anxiety and stress: