Prepare Your Body and Your Mind for the Exams

This will probably be my last blog before you dive into the exams in May. I hope your revision has gone well: there’s still time to go over more past papers to become as familiar as possible with the way the examiners ask questions. And don’t forget that, in Maths exams, there’s only one mark for the correct answer – all the other marks are for working and intermediate answers. So train yourself to write as much as you can which you think is relevant, even if you can’t fathom out what the actual answer is.

But, as important as your revision is, you can also improve your exam performance by looking after your physical self. Please, please, please act on the following points if you haven’t already: they are all backed up by evidence from studies and surveys.

Getting enough sleep is possibly the most important way you can prepare yourself. Or, put another way, if you have short nights before your exams, your brain will not be working at peak performance during the day. Different people need different amounts of sleep – you know you are getting enough if you wake up relaxed and ready to start the day. So, for at least a week before you start your exams, go to bed at a sensible time and aim for undisturbed sleep.

Test have shown that if you are looking at a screen just before you go to sleep, your brain is disturbed to the extent that, although you may get to sleep quickly, you will not get a proper, deep sleep. So be firm with yourself. Screens (including phones) off at least an hour before you intend to go to sleep, preferably a bit more. You can always fill the time with more revision.

Diet is incredibly important. A good, balanced diet ensures that you feel fit, and that your brain is properly fed. I could write pages about it, but I suggest you do a bit of research yourself: here’s one site out of many with some good advice. You must, of course, drink plenty of water, but there’s no need to become obsessed by it – just do what feels right. And go easy on the caffeine: cut it out altogether if you can.

Finally, be aware that exams are stressful for most people. Find ways to manage your stress and, above all, try not to introduce unnecessary stress. For example, make sure that you arrive in plenty of time for your exams, allowing extra for delays. Pack everything you need the night before. Have a very clear exam timetable so you know exactly where you have to be, at what time, every day. Don’t increase each other’s stress levels by sending angsty texts. Don’t indulge in exam post-mortems; you’re far more likely to end up talking about the bad bits than the good bits.

I’m sure you know that all this is good, sensible advice – but you have to make the effort to act on the advice. Don’t pretend. So I’ll say ‘good luck’ for your exams – but, if you’re well prepared, I hope you won’t need luck!

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