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Countdown: 24 Hours Before An Exam

With the clock ticking down to your exam, what should you be doing? Read this post and find out!

It’s 24 hours before your exam! What do you do? In this Countdown post, we will tell you what to do in the final hours before your exam.


The Day Before

  1. Make a plan: write a list of everything you would like to do or revise. Once you have made this list, prioritise the items by importance. Try to ensure the action items on your list are achievable and realistic.
  2. Revise: don’t spend the day trying to cram in more information. Instead, try to:
    1. Recite the main points on each topic
    2. Check your recall against your exam notes or flash cards.
    3. Read over past essays and formula sheets
    4. Go through practice exam questions.
  3. For STEM subjects, try to find a couple of past papers to do. For Humanities subjects, like English, try to do at least one practice essay, creative, or set of short answer questions depending on your task. Dry runs are excellent preparation and help you overcome exam anxiety and nerves.
  4. Make sure you get the room right for the exam. Is it in the school hall or gym?
  5. Pack your bag: ensure that you have packed at least 2 black or blue pens, a ruler, highlighter, sharpened pencils, sharpener, eraser, and a bottle of water (in a clear bottle). Depending on which subject the exam is for, you may be required to pack a scientific calculator or other subject-specific materials. Completing this step during the day allows you to locate or purchase materials you lack.
  6. Set yourself up for a good night’s rest: expose yourself to sunlight during the day, and towards the evening, avoid drinks containing caffeine, such as coffee and energy drinks.

Do practice Papers to Reinforce Your Learning and Spot Your Strengths and Weaknesses


The Night Before

You need to sleep well to think well!

  • Plan your sleep and awakening times. Make sure you get that full 8 hours of sleep your brain and body needs to ensure that you’re rested and alert.
  • Obviously, set an alarm so that you’ve ample preparation and travel time. If you do not plan appropriately, you may find yourself tired in the exam, making it difficult to concentrate, problem-solve, think creatively, and recall information.
  • Give yourself plenty of preparation time so that you aren’t rushing around beforehand and are able to head into the exam with plenty of time. Plan to be at the exam location at least half an hour before the exam starts to account for unexpected occurrences. Be organised and you’ll help ease those pre-exam jitters and nerves! For example, if your exam is at 8:45AM, you may want to sleep at 10PM, wake up at 6AM, leave the house at 7AM and arrive at the exam location at 8AM.
  • Wind down and relax: Do something you enjoy before going to bed, such as listening to music or taking a bath, to help you relax.
  • Don’t read on your phone, tablet, or laptop while in bed. Blue light disrupts your circadian rhythm, making it hard to sleep and interfering with your sleep patterns. While blue-light filter apps exist, they’re are not entirely effective. If you have an exam the following day, you’re best off getting a good night’s sleep than seeing the latest Snaps from your mates.
  • If you’re having trouble falling asleep, try:
    • reading a book;
    • using earplugs;
    • moving to another room;
    • Going for a short stroll around the block;
    • Or do some mindful exercises.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep


The Day of the Exam

  • Get up in good time! Don’t sleep in!
  • Eat well! Your brain is only a small part of your body, but it burns around 30% of your bodies energy. A hearty breakfast and reasonable lunch will ensure that you have plenty of mental energy to tackle your exam. Research has shown the best breakfast contains slow-release carbohydrates, which keep your blood levels stable, preventing drops in concentration and brain power; protein to keep you fuller for longer; and foods rich in Omega-3 fats – for its brain-boosting benefits.
  • Review your notes. Go through your flash cards, study notes, formulas, or practice essays one last time.
  • Avoid panic talk! Try not to talk to your peers about the topics or the exam in general as it may confuse you and contribute to exam anxiety. Sometimes it’s a good idea to sit by yourself and avoid catastrophising with your mates!
  • Stay positive: focus on remaining confident. Staying positive will help you tackle the exam with positive energy.


Just Before the Exam

  • Relax: remind yourself that stress before an exam is normal. Take a few minutes to try to relax and practise stress management techniques. One quick way to relieve exam anxiety is to tense all the muscles in your body, hold this tension, release it, and feel it leave your body. Another common breathing exercise is the 4-7-8 Exercise. This involves inhaling for 4 counts, holding your breath for a count of 7 and exhaling to a count of 8. This one breath should be repeated 3 more times for a total of 4 breaths.
  • Check the physical conditions of the exam room: is your table uneven? Is it too dark or sunny to write satisfactorily? If so, alert an exam supervisor and correct these problems before the exam.
  • Do your best! This is the moment where all of your effort and organisation pays off. Stay calm and focused and all of your study will be rewarded.


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Written by Matrix Education

Matrix is Sydney's No.1 High School Tuition provider. Come read our blog regularly for study hacks, subject breakdowns, and all the other academic insights you need.


© Matrix Education and, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matrix Education and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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