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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.