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Preparing for the exam – the night before

Exam prep

Video transcript –

When you’ve put so much time and effort into studying for an exam, you want to make sure you’re perfectly prepared the day before too. 

The first step is to stop drinking any caffeine by lunch time. The half-life of caffeine (that’s the time taken for the body to eliminate one-half of the caffeine) is about 5 hours, so if you drink it after lunch, it can still be in your system when you go to bed. Play it safe and stop by lunchtime. 

What about last minute study? Don’t leave it until the evening as it may be harder to get to sleep when you have things on your mind. Try and complete any study before dinner.

If you’re driving to the exam venue the next day, make sure your car is full of fuel and you know where you can park, as well as a plan A and a plan B in case the venue is busy. If you have a long way to travel, it may well  be worth the investment to book a hotel near the venue for the night. 

Prepare everything you need for the following day. Everything for the exam, like pens, paper, water, ID you need to take, as well as all your personal effects. Choose your clothes for the day and lay them out in the order you need to put them on. Prepare what you need for breakfast so it’s all ready to go. Put your wallet and keys where you can find them. You want to eliminate every decision you need to make the following day so all your decision making is saved for the exam. This is also designed to reduce stress, so you can turn up feeling as relaxed as possible.

Don’t eat your dinner too late. You don’t want to go to bed hungry, but an earlier meal won’t interrupt your sleep. Eating at least 3 hours before bed is a good option. If you eat at 5:30pm you can be in bed by 9pm.

So, let’s talk about bed. You ideally need to be asleep by 10pm to allow your brain to complete all its housekeeping and cleaning! So getting into bed at 9pm without any screens, like your phone, will help you relax. The light from screens can keep you awake and disrupt your sleep cycle. Try reading rather than watching TV. This would be a great time to meditate too. Anxiety the night before an exam will interfere with your sleep and reduce your performance the next day. It can be difficult to clear your mind, but music can absorb your attention and act as a distraction. This means it can be a great aid to meditation.

We’ve linked a song below that neuroscience says can reduce anxiety by up to 65%. It’s from the results of a study where participants attempted to solve difficult puzzles as quickly as possible. The puzzles induced a certain level of stress, and participants listened to different songs while researchers measured brain activity as well as physiological states like heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rates. Listening to this one song called “Weightless”, resulted in a 65 percent reduction in participants’ overall anxiety, and a 35 percent reduction in their usual physiological resting rates. That’s a real bonus for the exam.

Don’t forget that the difference between a pass and a fail is only one mark. Preparing well the night before an exam means that you don’t leave anything to chance. 

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Exam question skills – multiple choice papers


Tips for success in exam question skills.

Exam question skills are essential for making the most of your opportunity on the big day. When you’ve worked so hard on your revision it would be such a shame to miss out on easy marks. Become familiar with how multiple choice exams work. Utilising a few key exam question skills will help you make the most of your knowledge.

Getting started…

Start by reading the end of the question first, this is often where the real question is. Once you know what you are looking for, read the question from the top. Look for the details you need and ignoring any red herrings or superfluous information.

Try this question:

You can see how the actual question is at the end of the text. Reading this first and then going back to the beginning is an efficient way of looking at the question. You are reading it already knowing exactly what you are looking for. If you read the question in order,  you would need to read it a second time. This method will save you time overall and is probably one of the most important exam question skills.

But do make sure you always read the entire question. The answer may seem to be in the first few lines, but if you read on you may discover more. Perhaps the offence is incomplete, or the offender has a defence for his actions.

What next?

  • Answer the question in your mind before looking at the answer choices.
  • Then, having decided on your answer, read every answer choice, eliminating any you know to be definitely wrong. Even if you see what you think is the right answer straight away,
  • You have already answered the question in your mind, and eliminated wrong answers, so choose the best answer from those that remain.

If you knew the answer straight away, that’s great. If not, you may have been able to rule some of the answers out before making an educated guess.  To be left with what is correct, sometimes you just need to know what answers are wrong.

So while we are here, let’s talk about the right and wrong answers to this question.

The offence can’t be “Making a threat to kill” as this does not apply to an unborn child. Had Mr Rogers threatened to kill the child upon its birth this would have been a different matter.

We can rule out “Possession with intent to endanger life” because Mr Rogers has an imitation. Even if you are not sure of the legislation, common sense tells us that you cannot intend to endanger life with an item that does not endanger life!

And finally, we can ignore “Having an imitation firearm in a Public place”, because My Rogers has a lawful excuse.

With those answers aside, it leaves us with the correct answer of “False imprisonment” – unlawful restraint of a persons freedom of movement.

What about the more complex questions?

This is where writing on the exam paper can be a life saver. If you are allowed to write on the paper, you can cross out any information that is wrong, leaving you with a much simpler question. Take this question for instance:

I hope you started by reading the last part of the question first!!

If you’re not super confident on relevant time then a question like this can be really daunting. But we can instantly simplify it.

The relevant time is the time of arrival at the first station where he is wanted or, if arrested outside of England/Wales, 24 hours after entry into England/Wales (or sooner if they arrive at the station before the 24 hours is up). So the information we are looking for is when they entered England. The question clearly states that they entered England at 1pm on Tuesday.  The relevant time is 24 hours after entering England/Wales (or sooner if they arrive at the station where he is wanted before the 24 hours is up).

So to save getting confused, let’s write on the question, get rid of everything we don’t need and highlight what we do.

Now the question seems much simpler. Check your understanding by answering it here:

What if I get stuck?

Move on and return to the question later.  There are likely to be several questions you are unsure of and it would be a huge shame to waste time trying to work them out and not finish the exam, especially as there could be a dozen unfinished questions at the end of the exam that would have been easy for you if you had just got to them. 

Leave questions you are unsure of and come back to them at the end. If you still have time left, you can now share this between the remaining questions, starting with the ones you think are easier. But never leave any blank, if there is little time at the end then simply guess.  If there is no negative marking (marks taken away for wrong answers), you shouldn’t be handling in an unfinished paper.

But make sure you read the tricky question before leaving it to come back to later. There are two good reasons for this. 

  1. Your subconscious mind will be working away on it, so you may find the answer comes to mind more easily when you return to the question.
  2. You may get a clue to an earlier question you were stuck on from a question later on in the exam. 

Should I change my answers?

Research supports changing answers if you think your original one was wrong. This is particularly effective when you return to questions at the end of the exam. Your subconscious mind has been working on them and when you return to questions you weren’t sure about, that extra time your brain has spent processing it often leads to a better answer.

So if you think your original answer was wrong, it could be prudent to change it.

What if I don’t have a clue?

If you are guessing with absolutely no idea what to choose, there is an exam question skills strategy you can use. It may squeeze and extra mark or two out of the exam for you! One piece of work that examined 100 tests (2,456 questions in total), from varied American sources, found some useful statistical patterns.

  • The answers “none of the above” or “all of the above” were correct 52% of the time. 
  • The longest answer on multiple-choice tests was usually correct. 
  • Correct answer choices hardly repeated consecutively. (E.g., If your last correct answer was [A], the next one is less likely to also be [A]).
  • There is a slightly higher chance that answer choice [B] is correct when the question has 4 answer choices.

These don’t provide guarantees, but it may be better than a completely random guess if you have no clue at all!


Make sure you use all these exam question skills as you work through your paper. Take your time and read the questions carefully. This is where all your hard work pays off. And make sure you are completely familiar with the NPPF exam rules. You’ll find everything you need to know at the College of Policing here.

Good luck!! 🍀

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Environment and memory – 60 second video

Environment and memory

Video transcript – 

A memory experiment was conducted on a beach. Participants were asked to memorise a list of words in two conditions: one on dry land and the other while scuba diving. The next day, they were asked to recall all the words. The words learned underwater were better remembered underwater and words memorised on dry land were more accurately remembered on dry land. There was around a 50% better recall when the learning and recall environment were the same. Other studies have shown similar results and suggest that the more your study and test environments are the same, the better your memory is.

It seems that novel smells might play a role in memory too. Perhaps because the part of the brain that first processes smell is connected to the hippocampus – the part of the brain responsible for memory. If you use a distinctive, unfamiliar smell when you study, smelling that same odour during an exam may help you remember more information than without the odour.

So when you study, try and keep your study environment, smell and noises as similar to the real exam environment as possible.