How to prepare for exams

14 September 2020

A financial services student revising in preparation for his exam.

Many financial services students find exams daunting. Effective preparation will help to ensure that you are ready for your tests, so it’s important to approach this in the correct way.

Every type of exam requires a certain level of planning and preparation to improve the student’s chances of remaining calm and focused in the exam, and to maximise their chances of passing. In this blog, we explain how to prepare for your exam, including tips on what to do the day and night before, as well as help with what to eat and how to get a quality sleep.

What to do the day before an exam

Assuming you have a free day to prepare for your exam, you should spend it going over the information you need to know and checking that you understand it completely. For example, start by scanning through each module and, if possible, carry out a mock exam to see how you fare.

However, although the day before your exam should be devoted to revision and preparation, make sure that you take regular breaks or you may be left feeling overwhelmed and stressed, and it won’t help you to absorb the information you need for the exam.

What to do the night before an exam

It’s often difficult to know what to do the night before an exam. On one hand, you could be tempted to cram in as much revision as possible, and on the other hand, you may be more inclined to rest and keep yourself refreshed for the big day. But what works best?

In fact, both approaches can be correct when balanced properly – you simply need to revise enough to benefit your chances of remembering the information but not so much that you don’t get enough rest. You shouldn’t revise for any longer than three hours at a time, and after you’ve finished revising, relax by watching a film or TV show, playing video games or socialising. Memory retention is more effective before sleep, so you could look through your notes just before you go to sleep, but just make sure that you don’t overdo it or you will be unlikely to settle.

How to sleep well before an exam

Sleep is something we all need, and when it comes to an exam, it couldn’t be more important to get a good quality and quantity of sleep. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to improve your sleep prior to your exam. For example, you could:

  • Get into a regular bedtime routine in the build-up to your exam
  • avoid large meals and don’t eat too late
  • cut out caffeine after 3pm
  • refrain from using your phone and other devices in bed
  • put down your thoughts in a notebook before trying to sleep
  • allow yourself enough hours of sleep (ideally eight)
  • remove exam-related material from your bedroom.

What to eat before an exam

Even the food you eat can impact how you perform during your exam. Eating a nutritious breakfast is a proven way of keeping focused and energised for emotionally and mentally draining exercises like exams.

Before your exam, you should eat slow-release carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread, porridge oats and muesli. For added energy throughout the day, you could also include a protein such as eggs, milk or yoghurt. Additionally, consider foods with brain-boosting properties. For example, smoked mackerel is an acquired taste, but it’s rich in omega 3 and a proven catalyst for improving energy and concentration.

What to do before an exam

On the day of your exam, the primary aim is to be as prepared and organised as possible. Start by waking up at a sensible time so you’re able to eat breakfast and get ready without feeling rushed and overwhelmed.

You should plan to get to the exam centre early, and if you happen to see any other people who are taking the exam, limit your conversation with them, as their concerns could end up becoming yours. It could be tempting to do some last minute revision, and while this may benefit your ability to remember key information, you should only scan over your notes as a full revision session may result in you feeling stressed and worn down before the exam has even started.

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