Pre-Exam Routine

The day of an exam can be very stressful. It’s critical that you structure your time before your exam in a way that reduces this stress and leads to a favourable state of mind. As with your preparation and exam strategy, you need a plan for how you will spend this time.

Most of my best exams followed a pre-exam routine. I knew what was going to happen between the moment I woke up in the morning and the start of the exam. This is what I did:

  1. Wake up, shower and get dressed. Just like any other day. If my exam was in the morning, I would wake up extra early.
  2. Eat breakfast. I avoided coffee and tea because they can cause stomach issues. You don’t want these during an exam.
  3. Cram. This is extremely important for refreshing your knowledge and preparing your mind for exam questions. I usually stuck to just my ultra-concise notes. Ignore the strange idea promoted by many people that you cannot learn anything by studying just before an exam.
  4. If my exam was in the afternoon, I ate a small, mild lunch. Nothing strong or heavy.
  5. Go for a walk and listen to high-energy, motivational music. It’s important to have a source of inspiration. Some of my friends inspired themselves in other ways, like wearing a specific piece of clothing or even beating their chest like a gorilla. Whatever works for you.
  6. No phone calls, messaging, or checking of notifications. No conversations that were not exam-related. No distractions.
  7. Check that I had everything I needed for the exam. 2 pens, a pencil, an eraser, a ruler, a calculator if necessary, a watch, and a bottle of water.
  8. Make my way to the exam location. I left plenty of time for potential delays. The stress caused by fear of being late can be disastrous.
  9. Discuss material with other students before going into the exam hall. Some people find this intimidating, but I found it very helpful.
  10. Ace the exam.

You are not a robot. Your emotional state before an exam matters. Do not underestimate the power that a routine has to frame your mind and influence your performance. The greatest military generals of the ancient past knew this. They went to huge lengths to inspire their troops before battle. Create a simple routine that allows you to perform your best.

Remember: exam days are not normal days. Expect to feel some degree of pressure and don’t fight it. Accept it and work with it.