It’s the morning of your Final Exam and you’ve done everything you can to prepare academically. You’ve thoroughly read the text material and reviewed your class notes. You’ve studied the flash cards, memory tables, and other study tools.
So what could possibly go wrong? Plenty!
Many students who prepare themselves academically for an exam often perform poorly when it comes to test time. That’s because they’ve ignored the mental preparation that’s required to be successful on important exams.
Here are five successful tips you can use right away to mentally prepare yourself for your next big test, and every important exam after that:
Tip Number 1 – Start Preparing from Day 1
In fact, you have prepared for this test for the past several months – not just the past 24 hours – by attending every class, paying attention to what the instructor had to say, then reviewing the material daily to make sure you understand it.
If you expect to be able to memorize all the material from a course in a single sitting, you aren’t being realistic. Keep in mind that the purpose of taking the course in the first place is to learn new material that (hopefully) will be useful to you later in your career or in your everyday life.
Cramming for a test the night before by using a lot of mnemonics and other tricks may help you retain some – but not all – the material in the short term. But you almost certainly will forget it all the moment the test is over.
Don’t squander the time and money you are investing in your academic career by forgetting everything you learn as quickly as you learn it. Start preparing for the big test on the first day of class by genuinely engaging with the material so you can absorb and retain it longer.
Tip Number 2 – “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”
It’s important that you are as relaxed as possible when you sit down to take the test. If you are worried that you haven’t studied enough, or feel other types of “exam anxiety”, then you haven’t properly prepared.
Mental preparation includes clearing your mind of fears and worries and being calm and confident on the day of the test. If you are prone to anxiety, consider exploring new and interesting ways to find clarity and serenity such as meditation, exercise, and eating right.
It’s also important that you don’t ignore anxiety or choose not to deal with it. This will only make it worse and probably will affect your performance on the test. Acknowledging, accepting and addressing your fears and concerns is the only way you will ever be able to get over them.
Tip Number 3 – Find a Balance
After you have found a way to deal with your anxiety, the next step is to find a good balance between reviewing the test material and finding ways to relax. You don’t have to choose between one over the other. You can combine both of these elements in a healthy, productive way.
For example, rather than reviewing all the material from the beginning for the hundredth time, identify the areas where you had the most trouble and do what you need to do to ingrain these into your intellect.
Carry the study materials with you as you make your normal rounds and periodically open them up at random and review brief parts of them throughout the day. If you already are familiar with the material, this is often a better way of reinforcing it in your mind than sitting down for yet another eight to ten hour cram session that is only going to add to your anxiety and stress.
Tip Number 4 – Don’t Do Anything Unusual
Many students believe final exams week is a good time to change their behavior. They may stay up all night studying or allow themselves to eat unhealthy foods in order to deal with the intense feelings of stress they are experiencing.
A better approach is to change nothing. Eat the same foods you always eat at the same time of the day, do the same amount of exercise that you normally do, see the same people, watch the same shows, and keep everything as normal as you possibly can.
Any type of change in your normal routine can trigger feelings of anxiety and stress. By keeping your routine the same, you can promote feelings of well-being and security that can help you succeed on the test.
Tip Number 5 – Go to Sleep!
The human brain functions optimally when it has between 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep. The night before your big exam, don’t stay up all night studying. If you haven’t been preparing for this test since the first day of class, it’s probably too late for that anyway.
Instead, go to bed, get some sleep, and wake up the next morning refreshed and ready to ace the exam!