How to Succeed in Exams

There is no quick-fix for doing well in your exams if you haven’t studied – sorry to get your hopes up! However, if you have worked hard and prepared properly, there are a few extra actions you can take to ensure you do your absolute best on the day.

We have put together a short list of things you can do both in the revision period and just before and during your exam.

Leading up to your exam

Make a revision plan
When you begin your revision period, create a schedule. Make sure you have enough time to cover everything and plan out your days, leaving breaks for relaxing your brain. See if anyone else taking the same exam as you wants to meet to revise together and test you on the subject. You can make your schedule colourful and eye-catching and hang it on your wall, or alternatively you can use an app like My Study Life to create a digital one.

Exercise and eat well
This may sound like it has nothing to do with doing well in exams, but exercising for at least 30 minutes a day (whether it be cardio or just a walk) during the revision period can really make a difference. Not only does it help to relieve stress and anxiety but it gets blood flowing to your brain (supplying oxygen, antioxidant and glucose) which can help you to think more clearly.

Practice, practice, practice
The first time you sit down in the exam room should not be the first time you ever try to complete an exam paper under timed conditions. Ask your tutor or lecturer for past papers you can use and familiarise yourself with the format and the content. Once you have done this, try setting a timer and completing a past paper in silence and in the time you would be given on the day. By doing this you can see how much time to spend on each section, whether you need to write a little faster or plan a little more.

On the day

Go to bed early the night before
Sleep is incredibly important when it comes to brain function. Anything you try and cram into your brain the night before an exam, you are very unlikely to retain – the best thing you can do is get a solid eight hours and wake up fresh.

Eat a good breakfast
If you’re feeling nervous, you may not feel like eating anything before an exam. However, studies have found that students who skip breakfast experience a 20-40% reduction in cognition (i.e. concentration, memory and alertness). A nutritious breakfast makes you feel fuller for longer, stabilises your mood and gives you plenty of energy for the day.

Read the whole paper
Once you are sitting in the exam room and are given your paper, it may be tempting to dive right in as soon as you hear ‘Begin’. Instead, take some time to thoroughly read through the whole exam carefully. If the exam is essay based, take time to write a short plan for each essay before you begin so you know what you are going to say once you start writing. If you get hung up on a question, move on. You can always go back to it later.

Try to answer everything
The examiners are on your side, they want you to do well, but they cannot give you any marks if you don’t write an answer. It may not be perfect or entirely correct but by writing it you will not lose marks and you may actually gain some from it.

Breathe
Sometimes an exam environment can feel overwhelming. You have a time limit and the weeks you have spent studying have all lead up to this moment. Your mind goes blank. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. You can do this – panicking will only make it worse. Take a sip of water and start again.

If you want more information about studying at Northumbria University London, visit our website, or to view the courses available please visit our courses page.

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