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What to do the night before the exam

By Subahaa Maheswaran in Study
11th of November 2020
Night before an exam tips - ATAR Notes

The below article is an opinion piece based on a previous student’s experiences, and should be taken as such.


You have spent so much time and energy studying for these exams – so what should you do the night before?


Last minute revision

Usually, I would advise against doing this and advocate for you to put your books away. However, you most likely will not follow this advice (I didn’t follow it either) – checking, one last time, that you have covered everything is just that irresistible. So, I’m going to suggest instead that if you are going to do last minute revision, don’t attempt any new past exam questions. You will just cause yourself unnecessary stress. You are also not going to be able to contact your teachers or tutors for help so there is really no point.

Instead, read over your notes. Do not just quickly skim over them in 10 minutes or less. Actively engage with them. Eg. highlight the most important aspects of your notes, draw or add in relevant images/diagrams (depending on whether your notes are handwritten or digital), take an important component of your notes and condense it down into a different form – table, flow chart, mind map – and more.


Eat well

Try to have a healthy and filling dinner the night before your exam rather than having a big breakfast and/or lunch on the day of your exam.

By healthy, I mean get some nutritious vegetables and protein in you. By filling, I mean something that fills you up but is not too heavy.

Have a nice homemade dinner which is both something you like and something which will provide you the proper nutrition and energy for the exam the next day.


Get enough sleep


It is not worth it. You will end up feeling too tired and all those hours you stayed up will be completely wasted.

I recommend going to sleep slightly earlier. You will be feeling quite nervous and probably unable to fall asleep as quickly as you usually are able to. Thus, give your mind more time to calm itself, so you can get the proper hours of sleep you need.

Consider doing an exam as the ultimate form of mental exercise. Your brain, akin to your muscles, needs rest when it’s tired from excessive activity (studying). Without rest, you will be unable to perform as well as you’d like for the exam.


Mental health

There is a difference between healthy and unhealthy nerves. It is actually completely normal and good to be feeling a bit scared about your exam the night before. It indicates that you care about the exam and desire to do well.

However, feeling stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, etc to an excessive extent may be unhealthy. Do not ignore or pass it off, as these unhealthy emotions will just carry over onto the exam day.

Talking to someone about how your feeling can help. Eg. family and friends. headspace has online and phone services you can use if talking to people you directly know is not an option for you. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to anyone at all, simply writing out how you feel may help. Overall, it’s better to get these negative feelings out than to hold them in.

Exercise may also be of use. For me personally, exercising has always been a nice break for my mind after studying for a long period of time. This is because, when you exercise, all your focus is on completing each set, move, lap, etc. You can also try yoga and/or meditation if exercise isn’t for you.

Additionally, doing something you enjoy may be of aid to you. It doesn’t need to be elaborate – just something to counteract these unhealthy emotions. Eg. play with your pets, watch your favourite movie, take a relaxing bubble bath and more.


Make sure you make it to the exam venue on time


You will lose vital time and information (given before the exam commences), which may negatively impact your ability to sit the exam and complete it.

Instead, plan the night before (or preferably earlier than that) on how you are going to make it to the exam venue. If you are going to travel by public transport, check the timetable for the particular route you will need to take, any delays and alternative routes. Further, have a plan in the circumstance that public transport fails you. Eg. make sure at least one of your parents can pick you up or a friend is able to lend you a lift. If your parents/a family member is dropping you off, make sure they know when the exam starts, where the venue is and how to get to the venue.

Knowing and planning out how you will make it to the exam venue the night before, will then inform when you should wake up the following morning. Then, set an alarm (multiple if you need it) and/or tell your parents or siblings to wake you up at this time.

You should also set up the materials you are going to bring to the exam the night before. Thus, find your ID card, best pens, calculator, etc. You don’t want to be turning your house upside down the following morning trying to find these things.


Of course, there are many other things you can do the night before your exam. It is ultimately up to you. You do not have to follow all these suggestions – just consider them as you go through the final stretch of the school year.


Subahaa, Year 12 2019