The exam is nearly here. The hours are counting down. There are so many things to think about. So what should you actually be doing with your last few hours?
During the day before - 9am-5pm
If you have not already done so, reduce your existing notes down to approximately ten pages (20 max). You may have some professionally produced revision materials but even these will contain too much information at this stage - the best notes will always be your own. This process of reduction is important, reflecting back on what you have learned and discarding what you know, means you will be left with what is personal to you and what needs to be memorised.
As part of your preparation you should already have been practising past questions on the key areas, under both exam and non-exam conditions. You may want to continue doing this during the day.
Physical and mental preparation is also important. Drink lots of water, avoid tea, coffee etc. as you will need to get a good night’s sleep. Exercise is an incredibly effective method of reducing tension and stress so try to build into your day time for a run or brisk walk. Breathing exercises can help keep you calm so take some time for yourself during the day.
The night before - 5pm-10.30pm
The secret as to what you should do the night before the exam is to be realistic. You don’t have much time so won’t be able to cover everything. Try to get an overview of the subject and focus on what needs memorising. These are most likely to be standard formats, definitions, lists, formulas not given in the exam etc. Memorising should include some rewriting of key terms/definitions, talking out loud, drawing pictures, rehearsing mnemonics etc.
Make sure you are organised for the following day. Put to one side your exam entry documents, calculator, gum, mints - anything you’ll need for the exam. You don’t want to be thinking of where everything is in the morning. And crucially - make sure you know exactly what time you need to leave to get to the exam with about an hour to spare.
Sleep time - 10.30pm-6am
A good night’s sleep is so important. Avoid reading your notes and then going straight to bed. Pack your materials away, put notes ready for the morning, then go into another room if possible or even outside, maybe watch TV for 20 minutes, something trivial. You need to wind down from studying, and relaxation leads to sleep.
And finally, keep a positive attitude. Think about what you know and are good at, and not what you don’t know and are bad at. Keep telling yourself you have done everything possible, and if you follow these steps you will have. Thinking you know nothing and should have done more will not help at this stage. Negativity is not your friend. Believe in yourself.
The morning of the exam - 6am-8am
Set your alarm early enough to give you another half an hour, or even an hour of revision. You don’t need to get out of bed, just continue memorising your notes. This is now about little and often, short 10 minute intervals. Grab a shower and get your brain going - recite things while you wash - you’ll be amazed by what you remember at strange times.
1 hour before the exam - 8am-8.45am
Whatever you do after arriving at the exam centre is personal. Some people prefer to sit on their own, reviewing the revision notes. Don’t bother taking your course notes, you won’t need them. This is still very much about short term memory. Other people prefer to talk, chatting about nothing, just to keep their mind off the exam. Both are fine ways to cope just before the exam.
And it’s over
Afterwards is also personal. Many people will go home straight away, but some will want to talk through what was in the exam, looking perhaps for some confirmation they have not made a complete mess of it. Most importantly, if you have another exam, go home, put your old revision notes to one side, forget everything and start on your next subject.
What you do in the final 24 hours can make a significant difference to your exam result but it only improves your chances, it is not a substitute for hard work and a well-structured period of study beforehand.