Exam day. The big day. The day for which you’ve been prepping for months. It’s here, and … you’re terrified. What if your mind goes blank? What if you forget everything you’ve studied? What if you run out of time before you finish? What if there’s a computer glitch and the system switches your score with someone who received a lower score? What if …
Wait! That kind of doomsday thinking is not very helpful. You’ve got to keep your head in the game and maintain a positive, can-do attitude from your first study session until you answer your last question on exam day.
Whether you’re in your first semester as a freshman or nearing the finish line in grad school, stress from exams can pile up quicker than packets of fast-food condiments in your kitchen drawer.
Before you assume the lotus position and begin deep breathing exercises to stay calm, remember that it can be helpful to experience some stress. It prompts us to stay alert and motivates us to complete tasks on time. Avoiding stress altogether makes life boring. The problem comes when you experience so much stress that it debilitates you.
Here are some tips to help you prepare for exams without feeling overwhelmed.
1. Get organized
Use a calendar/planner to break up studying into manageable chunks each day, and commit to doing the work daily. Students preparing for tests like the GRE and GMAT typically commit to studying at least 8-12 hours a week. Break that up into smaller study sessions every day to help you avoid trying to cram too much in at the last minute during an all-nighter.
2. Plan your day ahead
Take a few minutes at the end of each day to prioritize your goals and studying time for the following day. Doing this exercise the night before will help you wake up feeling already accomplished and with clear intentions on how to studying.
3. Get outside and move
Commit to taking a walk or running outside 3-5 days a week. Use that time to listen to music that makes you feel good and visualize yourself achieving your target score. The combination of fresh air and extra dopamine in your system will help you alleviate stress and clear your mind to stay focused on studying.
4. Eat healthy
Whenever you’re trying to accomplish a new set of goals, you need to be at your best. That means no more late night Taco Bell! You deserve to be healthy. Plus, healthy foods are going to give you the energy you need to cross the finish line on exam day.
5. Be consistent
By consistently studying, exercising, eating healthy, staying organized, and visualizing yourself achieving your target score, you will approach exam day feeling calm, confident and fully prepared. You may still experience some test day jitters, but your prepared self will be able to make like Taylor Swift and just shake them off.
About the Author:
Jennifer is here to help you navigate college and grad school while still maintaining your sanity. She is a graduate of the University of Florida (Go Gators!), with a major in Journalism and Communications and a minor in Psychology. She’s also a certified Montessori instructor and once witnessed a four-year-old correctly label all 54 countries on a map of Africa. She prefers to sing when not in the shower, and she’s not afraid of heights as long as she’s standing on something that is less than 15-feet tall.