The Day of the Examination


Do you know what this picture represents?



Me neither, and unless you’re studying A level Biology, you don’t need to! If you are studying Biology, it is something to do with blood sugar levels, you know better than me! The point is, you can’t put energy in to your body and expect it just to keep going until it is convenient to crash. Why is this relevant to you? Because you’re probably thinking of staying up late the night before your examination to cram, and then somehow perform in an examination. You can do this, but you need to be sensible, so here is what I do in the 24 hours running up to an examination…

I’m going to assume you are prepared for the examination. I may do another post on how to cram, but for now, let’s pretend you’ve followed my clearly defined steps to revise for an examination, and you are vaguely prepared. If I said go to bed at 8pm with a warm cup of milk, I know you wouldn’t follow that advise, so let us be realistic. You do need to sleep. Whether cramming, refreshing your memory, or relaxing the evening before you do need to go to bed and you do need to sleep. One of the best ways to ensure this happens is make sure the day before an exam you get up nice and early. If you treat yourself to a lie in the day before an exam, you won’t sleep that night, and let’s be honest, you need to get up and revise the day before your exam. Aim to get AT LEAST 6 hours sleep the night before an exam. If it’s a morning exam you need to be turning off the light (and your phone) by midnight at the latest. There is nothing new on facebook, seeing someone you once met at a party planking at another party you weren’t invited to is not worth staying awake for!

The night before, DO NOT have energy drinks and sugary snacks to stay up revising! Stay hydrated with water!

So, the alarm goes off, you need to get up! If you need to be up at 7, don’t set your alarm for half 6 and snooze, you’re just denying yourself 30 minutes decent sleep.

  • The alarm goes off, you get up!
  • You shower, it will wake you up!

Breakfast: is important! I don’t care that you don’t normally eat it. Firstly, you should! Secondly, a small bowl of adult cereal (so nothing too sugary), toast or porridge will not affect you body adversely just because it isn’t used to it. You may not normally feel hungry mid morning, but have you ever daydreamed, or not been able to remember something you know you normally remember? That’s your body needing energy in places not getting it!

What you wear: is important! You want to be comfortable, you want to be fashionable (or unfashionably fashionable, or make it seem like you don’t care). You might have lucky pants – wear them, you might think you look awesome in that new top – wear it. Wear something you are happy in, but remember you don’t want to be hot or cold in the exam hall, and you don’t want to struggle taking a tight jumper off if you get to hot and knock your papers everywhere.

Get to within walking distance of the examination between an hour and a half and two hours early. Obviously if you walk from home to the exam, this is irrelevant. In London the tube can stop running at a moment’s notice, and buses are never reliable. If you drive or use any public transport, get close to the exam, and then go for coffee, find somewhere to read through some notes, or read a book to relax. Nothing can happen then that will stop you getting to the exam. Every year without fail at least half a dozen of my students miss exams due to traffic or transport. It can happen to you, don’t be so cocky!

In the last half an hour before I enter the exam hall I read through my revision page…

My revision page: is one side of A4. Anyone can memorise one side of A4 if they stare at it long enough. So in the days leading up to an exam I write down all the stuff I need to remember on ONE side of A4, not one page over 2 sides, ONE side! I stare at this, I memorise it like a best man’s speech. I’m reading it right up until the point I walk in the hall. As soon as I am allowed to write, I am going to regurgitate this page with it’s formulae or whatever onto the back of my exam or a piece of paper – wherever I am allowed to write, but not in the space for the first answer obviously!

Red bull and banana: are my energy sources of choice! The banana because it’s really easy and quick to eat, absorbed almost instantly, and a great energy source! The Red Bull for me is a ritual, but there is method in it. Redbull is a mixture of caffeine, taurine and other stuff that probably isn’t great for you in high doses. It gets to work straight away, and will last up to 3 hours when the effects start to wear off! You do not want this effect to wear off in an examination so DO NOT HAVE RED BULL ANY SOONER THAN 3 HOURS BEFORE THE END OF YOUR EXAM! There is an issue of Caffiene being a diuretic (makes you go wee wee lots), but this shouldn’t kick in for an hour or so, so as long as you haven’t been drinking litres of water in the morning, you should be able to sit through an exam (yes you can go to the loo during an examination, but it wastes time and disrupts thought – although can be used as a moment to wash your face and regain focus).

If you have an examination in the morning and afternoon, do not have sugary substances or energy drinks before the morning exam. Get through it naturally, and have something immediately before the afternoon examination.

 In the exam hall: it is quiet, it is tense, and it is often smelly! Even if you aren’t sitting exams in the school sports hall, 200 people scared about their Mathematics exam, usually in hot June weather tend to smell. For them I recommend they read what to do immediately after getting up earlier in this post. For you, all I can say is block it out. If you’re religious – pray, if you a Belieber – run through the lyrics of your favourite song of his, it can be a long time between getting in and starting the exam. Have your equipment, you don’t want to borrow it, and that’s if you can borrow it. Have your water bottle with label taken off. Be ready for when they let you write and you reconstruct your A4 revision page on the back of the exam (in a few minutes, do not spend more than a minute or two on this).


And then… begin the examination!



One thought on “The Day of the Examination

  1. Pingback: In the examination « Math or Maths?

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