With exams starting next week, it’s time to think about your exam day ‘action plan’. This includes not only a timeline of what’s left to study and how long it will take to get to the exam venue, but also how you’ll manage exam-day nerves and post-exam relief (and continued study). Below are some tips and tricks for ensuring your action plan will get you through the highs and lows of exam writing.

1. Fill your calendar

If you haven’t done so already, now is a good time to slot in when and what you’re going to study between now and each of your exams. Include in your timetable rest and food breaks, as well as commuting time and work hours. For the days you have exams, figure out how long it will take to get to your exam, and what routes are best. Remember you’ll want to arrive early to the exam venue! Check ahead for any possible train or road disruptions to avoid exam morning panic. For timetable examples, check out Research and Learning Online here.

2. Get enough sleep

While late-night cramming is tempting, your mind won’t be able to effectively remember – or recall – what you’ve learned if it’s exhausted. Be sure to get enough sleep, and try to adjust your sleep schedule so you’re able to wake up refreshed for your exams (especially if you’re a night owl who sleeps in!).

3. Pack ahead of time

If you’re writing a traditional exam, pack your pencils/pens, water and snacks the night before so you don’t have to worry about it the morning of your exam. If you have an eExam, check out the info video here to learn more. You can also come into the library and practice using the eExam system: just ask our friendly staff at the Information Point.

4. Remember to breathe

If you’re nervous before your exam, take a few deep, slow breaths. Deep breathing can assist in regulating your anxiety. By being early to your exam, you’ll have some time prior to settle yourself: breathing is a great way to do this. It’s also important to pause during your exam as well, if you need to. If you’re struggling with a question, or become overwhelmed for any reason, stop and breathe. Reset yourself mentally and start again. Nerves are an unfortunate part of the exam process, but they can be tamed. If you want to learn more about mindfulness and breathing techniques, check out these resources.

5. Read

The first thing you should do when you start your exam is read the instructions carefully; note that reading time is now included in the overall exam time. If you’re able to review the whole exam as well before beginning to answer questions, do so. This will allow you to start thinking about how best to pace your time. For example, if, in one hour, you have 30 multiple choice questions (MCQs) and one long answer essay, you’ll want to spend no more than 30 minutes on the MCQs and 30 minutes on your essay. How much time you devote to each section also depends on how much it’s weighted: a section weighted more should be given more time. For more on how to understand different exam questions, check out ‘Understanding Exam Questions’. To practice some of these types of questions, check out ‘Sample Exam Questions’.

6. Plan something fun

It may sound strange, but having something to look forward to can help curb the nerves. Besides, after the stress of the exam, you’ll want to unwind. Even if you have other exams to study for, try to plan for at least a few hours of ‘relaxing’ time. Whether that’s watching a movie, having coffee with friends, or taking a well deserved nap, be sure to decompress after your exam. Your mind will thank you, as you’ll be refreshed and able to study more effectively later.

Exams can cause unpleasant stress: by having a plan, studying hard, and mentally preparing for the day, you can write your exams calmly and confidently.

If you’d like to discuss exam taking strategies with someone, pop in to one of our libraries and speak to a Learning Skills Adviser.

For more on exam taking strategies, check out the resources available online through the library.

Good luck. You got this!


About the author: Dr Stephanie Jury is a Learning Skills Adviser at the Pharmacy Library, Parkville campus.