How to prepare for the first day of exams

Start your preparation the evening before an exam
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Sleepy woman being woken up by smartphone alarm

Many people find exams stressful, even after spending a lot of time studying and preparing. Even people who have been confident in the weeks leading up to exams can start to feel nervous the day they arrive.

If you are worried about the day exams begin, here’s some advice to follow to make the morning of your first exam as stress-free as possible.

There are things you can do the night before, when you wake up, when you’re in the exam, and when it’s over to make things easier.

The night before

The best thing to do is to start preparing the night before your exam, instead of waiting until the day arrives.

Take time to relax

As tempted as you might be, avoid spending the night cramming. Instead, take some time to relax and try to get a good night’s sleep.

Here’s some advice for avoiding an all-nighter when it comes to studying.

Make sure you have what you need

Check your timetable and make sure you know the correct time your exam starts and get there a half hour early. Take a look at our exam checklist and make sure you have everything you need in your bag so you’re not panicking tomorrow morning.

Decide when to wake up and leave

Double check your alarm is set so you can be certain you won’t sleep in. Decide how you’ll get to the exam and when to leave, making sure to take into account any traffic or bus schedules that could get in the way.

On the morning of the exam

Whether it’s at home or outside the exam hall, there are some things to keep in mind the morning of the exam.

Give yourself plenty of time

Get up early so that you’re not in a rush, and make sure to leave well in advance of the exam. Aim to be there early so you can find the room and get settled.

Eat well

Have a good breakfast. Some scrambled eggs on toast or an omelette will provide you with the energy you need.

If you skip on breakfast it will be difficult to concentrate and you won’t have enough energy to get you through the exam.

It’s also a good idea to bring a bottle of water with you to the exam hall to keep hydrated.

Avoid last-minute studying

Try not to start learning new information that you haven’t already covered in your study. You’ll most likely get confused, panicked, and you might end up forgetting something valuable you covered a few days before.

If you want to do a little bit of prep to keep yourself focused, take out a pen and paper and just write out some key points that you want to cover. Preparing flashcards with some key points could also be helpful, but avoid cramming them with too much information, stick to the most important stuff.

​Avoid negative people

Stay away from anyone who is complaining or panicking about the exams. They could make you feel anxious and distract you at the last minute. Instead, keep to yourself or talk to someone about something unrelated.

Use the bathroom

Go to the bathroom before the exam starts so as to not cut into valuable writing time.

In the exam room

Once you’re in the exam hall, all you need to do is focus on getting down your answers.

Calm yourself before starting

Take a few deep slow breaths before you open your exam paper and start writing. It will help to calm your nerves.

If you start to panic, you can speak to the exam supervisor and ask to be accompanied out of the room until you have time to regain your calm.

Read the paper

Take time to read the exam paper carefully. The main reason people do badly in exams is that they don’t read the question carefully and don’t do what they are asked.

Keep an eye on the time

Work out how much time you have for each question. Start with the question you feel most confident about and keep a check on the time.

Avoid looking at other classmates

They will always seem to be writing more and appear more confident than you! Use all the time you can, don’t worry if people around you seem to be writing more than you, just focus on yourself.

Leave time at the end to review

Leave five or ten minutes at the end of the exam to review everything and to make sure all your identification details are on every page. Running out of time can be a common problem, so pace yourself well.

After the exam

When the exam is over, it’s time to let it all go. Avoid engaging in a post-mortem after the exam. Instead, concentrate on what has gone well, and then get ready for the next one.

Make sure to take a break before you jump into studying for the next exam. Your mind will need a break, and you deserve it.

If exam stress is getting you down, tell someone how you’re really feeling

Need more information?

We are here to answer your questions and talk through your options. Our online chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm. Chat to us now about your situation.

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