What to do the night before an exam
So, it is the night before an all important exam and you are just about to grab all your notes on that subject and read over them until the early hours of the morning… Well, if you are then I suggest reading this article first and then rethinking that plan. Here I will suggest four things that might be more beneficial if you want to do well in your exam.
Do a bit of revision (but don’t learn anything new)
While you shouldn’t spend all evening reading every page of your notes, textbook and revision guide and trying to remember every single little fact, I would suggest doing a few key things. Firstly, if you’ve made summaries of the subject, read over them. This helps to remind yourself of everything that might come up and (hopefully) makes you feel confident that you have learnt enough. Secondly, have a quick look over some past papers you have done, ideally ones with feedback from a teacher on them. This reminds you about how the exam will be structured so you know what to expect. It also gives you a chance to go back over any feedback to ensure it is fresh in your memory during the exam.
I know that some people are big fans of cramming the night before an exam but I wouldn’t recommend this. In my opinion, if you don’t know something the night before the exam then the chances are that panicking about trying to learn it at the last minute isn’t going to work. This is likely to just make you feel really un-confident and stressed, which is never going to help. Instead I would suggest reminding yourself of how much you have learnt since the start of the year to help you feel more confident.
Get everything ready
Running around frantically on the morning of your exam is only going to leave you feeling stressed, so instead get everything ready the night before. Make sure you have everything you will need in the exam like your pencil case (make sure it is see-through and has everything you might need plus a few spares in it), your ID, water (in a clear bottle), and anything else you might have been told to take. I would also suggest making sure everything else is ready, for example, laying your clothes out and making sure you have your keys and phone. On top of this make sure you double (or triple) check what time your exam is and how long it will take to get there so you aren’t late.
Making sure you have some time for doing un-exam related things is very important. By doing this you will take your mind off the exam and allow yourself to do something you enjoy. Personally, I would recommend doing some exercise, I always try to fit in a run the evening before an exam and it definitely helps me to relax. If you don’t want to go running, do something else like swimming or going for a short walk. Since exercise reduces state anxiety (anxiety you feel at a specific moment in time) this should help you to relax (Raglin and Morgan, 1987). Or, if you really don’t want to do any exercise do something else relaxing like reading a non-studying related book. Basically anything that distracts you and takes your mind off the exam will help.
Go to bed early
Rather than staying up all night worrying, going to bed early will help you do better in your exam. Research at Harvard Medical School showed that students who had had a good night’s sleep scored an average of 24% higher on a test than those who hadn’t. This is because sleep helps to consolidate memories so you are more likely to remember everything you read on your summaries. So, next time you consider staying up all night cramming, stop and think about whether that would actually be beneficial. Also, if you go to bed early you are less likely to oversleep and end up rushing around in a panic in the morning which is never helpful.
Leave a comment to let me know what you normally do the night before an exam and if you will be changing anything 🙂
Tracy, E. (2006) The Student’s Guide to Exam Success, Maidenhead, Open University Press
Weinberg, R. S., Gould, D. (2015) Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology, Champaign, IL, Human Kinetics.