Here’s an understatement: exams can be stressful. Even so, you CAN pre-empt exam anxieties with a few key tips that will leave you feeling calmer and more prepared.
Take Detailed, Organized Notes
When you’re reading a textbook or preparation guide, skim each chapter before you read, looking at headings and main ideas. You can use these headings and main ideas as titles in your notes and jot down important information as you read. That way, your notes are organized for you to study later.
Start the Study Process Early
Don’t stress yourself out in a time crunch and leave your brain enough time to process the information. By nature, you’ll be able to set a study system that works around all the other activities in your schedule.
Make a Study Schedule
We don’t plan to fail; we fail to plan. So do yourself a favor and plan out your study schedule weeks before an important exam. For the ACT, SAT or midterms, study groups and test prep classes are helpful, but even for your high school exams, making a schedule will help keep you on track. Look at the amount of information you will be tested on in the exam, and break it up into day-by-day chunks that you can study a bit at a time. This will keep your brain from getting overwhelmed and allow you to feel in control of the study process.
Create a Study Guide
As you’re breaking up information into manageable chunks, create a study guide with important vocabulary words and concepts you think you will need to know for the exam. You can fill out the study guide as you study and use it for review a few days before the exam.
One way to remember information is to make connections between the material and your daily life or information you already know. For example, if you’re learning about photosynthesis, take a trip outside and imagine the Sun working its magic on the plants in your garden. Some students find it helpful to come up with songs or rhymes to remember information as well.
Find a Study Buddy
Whether you turn to your parents, peers, or other friends taking the same exam, studying with someone else will help you solidify the information in your brain. Have your study partner ask you questions from your study guide, and try to explain each concept to your study partner in your own words as well as giving specific definitions you might need to know. By explaining the concepts out loud to someone else and becoming the “teacher,” you will actually end up with a better understanding of the information yourself.
Stay Healthy: Body and Mind
Our minds are at our best when we get plenty of sleep, stay hydrated, eat healthy and nutrient-rich foods, and exercise regularly. When you plan out your study schedule, be sure you’re also including time to keep up with healthy habits so that you are at top performance-level on the day of your exam.
Find a Way to Relax
Whether it’s meditation, visualization, or another form of relaxation, it’s important that you find a way to relax before your exam to minimize stress. If you’ve followed all the other study tips, you’ve got this! Try visualizing yourself acing the exam or meditating to calm your body and mind. Exams can heighten our adrenaline, making it much harder to concentrate. You are in control of the exam—the exam does not control you.
Day of the Exam: Eat a Healthy Breakfast
Our brains function better when we eat nutrient-dense foods right before taking an exam. Just as you have been staying healthy up until the day of your exam, make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before and then eat a healthy meal the day of. Your body will be nourished and ready to support you and all the preparation you’ve done to be ready for the exam. Plus, your stomach won’t be growling or distracting you while you’re trying to answer questions!
Try to Enjoy the Learning Process
Once you’ve done all your preparation, remember that you are learning information for an exam to further your experience as a student and human being. Try to enjoy the learning process as much as possible and keep your long-term goals in mind.