What you do on the morning of your exam heavily impacts your performance in that exam. Don’t know how to optimise your mornings for an exam?
Here are 17 tips that will revolutionise your exam performance!
1. Listen to Music
If you normally listen to music while revising, this tip will work especially well for you.
Let’s say you listened to a music playlist called Banging Tunes every time you revised for an exam. Then, on the morning of your exam, you listen to the exact same playlist.
The rhythm and style of the music would trigger your brain to remember concepts that you learnt while revising. This happens due to your brain associating the information you learnt while revising with the style of music you were listening to at the time.
However, if you do not listen to music while revising, this can still be useful! Listening to the right kind of songs in the morning can still relax your mind and calm your pre-exam nervousness.
2. Wake up Early
Not a popular one for many of you I’m sure… However, waking up earlier than usual can give you an hour or two of extra time to prepare that many others will not have – giving you an edge over everyone else!
What you do in these hours, however, is absolutely essential to how useful this exam preparation tip will be to you. So, what should you do in this priceless extra time?
As you will notice later, many of my other exam preparation tips require quite a bit of time. Therefore, this extra time will enable you to do as many of my tips as possible before an exam, making you the most prepared student taking the exam.
As I said before, the effectiveness of this tip depends on what you actually do in that extra time. Therefore, if you want to maximise your use of this time make sure you implement the right revision techniques.
If you are planning on ignoring this tip, which many of you are most likely considering… at least don’t have a lie in!
If you want more information on why lie in’s (and 20 other things) are so detrimental to your exam performance, you should probably give this article a read: 21 Things You Should Avoid Doing in The Heat of Exam Season.
Waking up early, also ensures that you will not be late to your exam. As this would cause you to be all hot and flustered for the first quarter of the exam – which would most certainly negatively impact your exam performance.
3. Eat a Large Breakfast
Going to an exam on an empty stomach is a big NO! Study after study, shows us that breakfast is an essential meal to aid brain function.
Therefore, not having breakfast, can cause you to struggle to recall information due to a lack of concentration. This is commonly understood best as the feeling you have when you go completely blank and then freeze in the middle of an exam.
If that’s not enough to sway you to have breakfast, then I can tell you now, the noise of your empty stomach rumbling and groaning is audible throughout the entire exam room and you will most definitely be very distracted.
So, what’s the best breakfast to have before an exam?
Well, the breakfast you decide to make doesn’t have to be healthy, just filling.
But not to filling of course… the only feeling worse than an empty stomach is probably the feeling of being bloated while in a seated position.
I always had, and still do have, scrambled eggs on toast. This would always fill me up and not take too much time out of my morning schedule.
If you are struggling to think of breakfast ideas, there is a great article on BuzzFeed’s website listing tons of different breakfast ideas that will most certainly fill you up.
Remember, don’t make your breakfast too large. There’s nothing worse than feeling bloated in a hot humid exam room
4. Wear Comfortable Clothes
If you are at school taking your GCSE exams, then this step will most likely not apply to you due to having to wear a uniform. However, if you are taking your exam at a college or university, then this most definitely does apply to you.
Exam rooms seem to be designed to cause you the maximum amount of discomfort. Whether it be the exam room being too hot, too cold or too humid, there is always something making you feel uncomfortable.
Although, you probably will never feel comfortable in an exam room, you can still make it easier for yourself by wearing suitable clothing on the day of the exam.
I recommend wearing clothes that you can easily take off and on. For example, if you wear a t-shirt and a jacket, you can always keep the jacket on if it’s cold and take the jacket off easily if you get too hot.
Take off your belt! You could be sitting down for up to 3 and a half hours at a time, therefore, make sure you don’t have a hard belt buckle digging into to your stomach!
5. Check You Have All Your Equipment for the Exam
You should have already prepared all of the equipment you will need for the exam… However, things always get misplaced, and you don’t want to waste precious time looking for a pen in the exam.
Therefore, before you leave for the exam, check you have all of the equipment that is required for your exam, one last time.
Also, make sure to test every piece of equipment that you will use. For example, you do not want to bring in a pencil that doesn’t have any lead in it!
If you are reading this and your exam is yonks away, make sure you get all of the equipment you will need for each exam now. It’s always good to prepare!
Normally, schools can provide you with equipment packages (that you do have to purchase). However, to save a bit of time and money you can just get a cheap (yet surprisingly good quality) school equipment package off Amazon.co.uk.
Also, if you are doing your GCSEs and you don’t know what equipment you need for your exam, you really should check the GCSE Exam Equipment List.
Important Mention: If you are doing an A-Level Maths, or an A-Level Further Maths paper, it is essential you have the correct calculator. Having the wrong calculator puts you at a huge disadvantage.
To be on the safe side, I would strongly recommend checking out this article on what the best calculator is for A-Level Maths and A-Level Further Maths. Ideally, before your exam!
6. Look Over Your Completed Past Papers
This is my absolute favourite tip that saved me during my exams.
Anxiety prior to an exam is caused by the feeling of not knowing what’s going to come up. This feeling is totally unjustified as many of the questions that you encounter in your exam will be very similar to the questions in specimen and past papers.
What this means, is that the format of your real exam questions will be identical to the format of the questions on specimen or past papers.
Therefore, if you just spend anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes in the morning looking over your completed past papers, you will feel a lot more comfortable going into the exam room.
A question in your real exam may be almost identical to a question in a specimen paper. Therefore, what I like to do is to look over the mark schemes for specimen papers in the morning of the exam to try and put some key phrases (that I 100% know will result in marks) in to my short-term memory.
This means, that when I go into the exam room my mind is filled with “mark scheme approved” phrases that I can just write down and apply to questions.
In a chemistry paper for example, the term “weak inter-molecular forces between layers” could be worth 4 marks when used in the correct context. Therefore, going into the exam room I will be remembering that key phrase and looking out for an appropriate place where I can use it.
Finally, looking over questions that have a possibility of coming up in your exam, on the morning of the exam, highlights any short term gaps in your knowledge that you can quickly fix by looking over your notes one last time or by doing some flash cards.
Don’t attempt to complete any unfinished past papers that you have found immediately before your exam. This will consume all your time in the morning and stress you out.
7. Go to the Toilet as Much as Possible
Maybe an obvious one, maybe not.
You are never given enough time in exams, therefore, during your exam time the only thing you should be doing is the exam! What I mean by this is that you don’t want to be wasting time going to the toilet or having brain blanks.
On the morning of your exam, you want to be going to the toilet as much as possible. You don’t have to force it, but just don’t hold back…
The more you go to the toilet before the exam, the less likely it is that you will have to go to the toilet during the exam. Which, is a real time saver.
8. Avoid Caffeinated Drinks!
This tip is along the same sort of lines as the last tip.
Caffeinated drinks are usually diuretics. This means that they make you go to the loo a lot. Therefore, don’t have caffeinated drinks on the morning of your exam. You will only regret it!
There is another reason why you should avoid caffeinated drinks.
Caffeinated drinks usually give you a massive energy boost after you drink them. This might sound great at first, however, the time between your exam and when you drink your coffee is usually greater than how long the energy boost will last.
Normally, resulting in you having a massive energy crash in the middle (or worse the start) of your exam. This energy crash, causes you to suddenly feel completely drained in your exam. Meaning, you start to feel tired, unfocused and extremely bored.
9. Recap Flashcards and Look Over Your Notes
You most likely have all of the knowledge and skills you need for your exam already in your head. However, being able to take that stored knowledge and put it on paper to actually apply it, is the real challenge. The issue is with recall.
Sometimes, information can just be flowing out of you onto the paper… Then again, sometimes, your mind goes completely blank and you cannot recall a single thing you once knew off by heart.
It really is a gamble! However, transferring your longer-term memory to your short-term memory can significantly increase your odds.
How do you do that?
By looking over your notes one last time before an exam, you are actually transferring the knowledge you once knew perfectly into your short-term memory.
Before your exam, you want as much information, knowledge and skills in your short-term memory as possible. You want this because it is much faster to recall information from your short-term memory than your long-term memory in exam situations.
It doesn’t have to be your own notes that you are looking over. It can be a peers notes or even your textbooks / revision guides.
I also recommend implementing some of our creative flashcard revision techniques on the morning of the exam. Because these techniques are much less intense than our main “long-term” revision techniques, your morning revision session will be much lighter and will allow you to relax a lot more (in preparation for your exam).
10. Know When to Stop Looking Over Notes
It is extremely important to take that last step with a pinch of salt.
There’s a fine line between recapping information before an exam and cramming in information before an exam. Cramming for an exam can work, however, cramming an hour or two before an exam is very, very risky.
Cramming, immediately before an exam, often causes you to become anxious about how much knowledge you can recall.
This happens, because cramming plays a psychological trick on your brain. Your brain sees you cramming before an exam and says to itself “He/She must be cramming because they don’t know enough about the exam”. This is a logical assumption; however, the issue is that many people do know the information and knowledge they need for an exam and are just being obsessive.
This obsessiveness, can cause a complete lack of confidence and an overwhelming feeling of anxiety going into the exam and will ruin your chances of achieving the grade you are aiming for.
A great way of making sure your morning revision session isn’t too heavy is to look over your mind maps. Your mind maps will highlight the gaps in your knowledge allowing you to quickly fix them before your exam.
If you are unsure about how to use mind maps effectively in the mornings, check out our article on How To Use Mind Maps Effectively.
11. Double Check the Time and Place of Your Exam
Another obvious one, yet worth mentioning.
Even the brightest, smartest students in the world can fail their exams for the most stupid reasons. Being late or going to the wrong exam room heavily qualifies as a stupid mistake.
Not much to say about this tip, except from don’t be a lemon and always double check the timing and placement of your exam before you leave!
12. Don’t Get into Arguments
Many people easily slip into this mistake and get into loud, aggressive and heated arguments with their family or friends right before they leave for their exam.
Don’t do this!
Getting into arguments causes your brain to go into a “Fight or Flight” mode which completely shuts down the creative areas of your brain. This “Fight or Flight” mindset is known to destroy creative thinking and memory skills.
To conclude, going into an exam with an argument still fresh in your mind will cause you to completely lose focus in the exam. It will also slow down how fast you can recall information and get it on the paper.
13. Avoid People Who are Anxious About the Exam
This may be challenging if it is one of your close friends who is anxious about the exam. However, being around people who are constantly worrying will cause you to become slightly anxious as well.
In other words, negative people’s mindsets will eventually rub off on you. The best thing to do? Avoid negative, anxious people entirely on the day of the exam and leave them to their own business.
Remember, this day is about you getting the grade you want, not comforting other people at your own expense.
14. Do Some Exercise Before the Exam
This one is super effective and has lots of scientific backing.
When you exercise, a hormone called serotonin is released. This hormone is responsible for a “feel good” feeling. This “feel good” feeling can really help you have a positive outlook on how the upcoming exam will go.
Furthermore, exercising helps relieve stress. Therefore, exercise can be a really good thing to combat the pre-exam nervousness. A stress-free mind will not only make you feel more comfortable in the exam (and the lead up to the exam) but it will also result in you performing better in the exam.
When I was doing my GCSE exams, every morning I would wake up and do 30 minutes of skipping. This skipping not only helped me burn off all of the Lucozades I was drinking to stay awake at the time. But it also helped me to release stress.
Don’t go out and buy yourself a super expensive skipping rope! The skipping rope you get should just be good enough that it wont break after being used on concrete. If it helps, here’s the one I used.
Don’t overdo the exercise! You don’t want to be feeling completely burnt out and drained in your exam!!!
15. Make Your Bed and Give Your Room a Quick Tidy
What did you say?
I know. I know. But hold fire for just a second.
Making your bed can be the simplest thing you can do on the morning of your exam that actually has an effect on your exam performance.
When you leave your house (or wherever you sleep) without making your bed, it sub-consciously creates a mindset of laziness and unproductivity. This mindset will then be carried through the entire day and most definitely into your exam.
It feels good because you know you have accomplished something that you needed to do – giving your brain a huge dopamine rush. This dopamine rush makes you feel great and sends your confidence levels through the roof right before the exam.
For something that will only take 5 minutes it really is worth doing.
16. Have a Positive Mindset Before Leaving the House
You may have noticed that throughout all my tips there is a persistent theme of controlling your mindset before attempting the exam.
This is intentional.
In my opinion, how well you do in the exam is heavily dependent on what your mindset was going into the exam. Therefore, if you can control your mindset and can manipulate it in a positive way your chances of achieving top grades increases massively.
I believe if you think you can absolutely do something, you most likely can and will.
17. Have Fun and Relax with Your Family
All these steps sound like too much effort?
If you take one thing from this entire article, let it be to not worry before your exam. Spend time with your family and enjoy yourself and relax in the morning.
Spending time with family and friends will reduce your anxiousness and calm your mind.