Thinking back to the frantic and panic filled pre-exam nights makes my heart start to race.
The night before an exam can have serious impact on the grade you get on exam. By not doing the right things before the exam you could end up being tired, restless, or distracted resulting in worse grades.
So how can you prepare yourself the night before an exam to wake up and ACE that test?
You can get yourself properly ready for the next morning by getting a full night of sleep, preparing everything in advance, and keeping yourself sane.
The night before and exam can honestly make or break your test day so make the most of it and set yourself up for success.
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Get at least 6 hours of sleep
I won’t be unrealistic and say that 8 hours of sleep should be the goal because college is crazy and busy and that’s not achievable.
However, keeping yourself up all night cramming and stressing will not help you test score.
You need to go into exams feeling well rested both physically and mentally. So aim to get at least 6 hours of sleep the night before your exams to help you do as good as possible. Cramming 2 extra hours of studying in will not help as much as a good night of sleep will.
*In general for adults between 20-28 years old, 7 hours is a good amount of sleep to aim for. Keep this in mind in college! 9-10 hours can actually be too much for young adults and can result in you feeling slightly worse but don’t get much less than 6 or you can also suffer from physical and mental ailments as a result.
Get everything packed up
Set yourself up for a successful morning the night before by packing up your backpack before you go to sleep.
This also allows you to ensure you are grabbing everything you need while you are in a calmer mindset. You don’t want to risk taking a calc final without a calculator because you were rushed or stressed when running out the door.
If you’re really feeling motivated then write up a small checklist in advance for that night. Include things like a snack, #2 pencil, calculator, gum, etc. anything that you might want that’s different than what is always in your backpack.
Don’t load up on junk food & caffeine
Junk food- you do not want to risk a stomach ache during your exam or the night before while you are trying to get rest. I know stress eating is so tempting but the night before an exam it’s important to fill your body with healthy nutrients. Eating healthy food will help you feel both physically and mentally better.
Caffeine- I know that SOME coffee is needed to help most people get through their day. But it can be way too easy in college to drink coffee after coffee (or energy drinks) that ultimately can cause more harm than good. Too much caffeine can over-stimulate you and make it hard to focus. It can also make it difficult to fall asleep. So stick to a moderate amount the night before and morning of the test.
Science has shown over and over that chewing gum while you are studying and then chewing the same gum while you take the test improves memory.
Sounds a little crazy but I did it in college and I felt like it helped retention.
Even if it’s the placebo effect it’s worth trying! I always chewed 5 gum in the rain flavor and to this day when I chew it I immediately think about calculus!
Skeptical? Read what actual scientists say about it –https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn2039-chewing-gum-improves-memory/ – but it’s worth trying right?!
Don’t let yourself go crazy from studying.
Take the breaks that you need to keep yourself studying and motivated.
A good general rule is 25 minutes of studying and 5 minutes of break or if you are feeling extra motivated 50 minutes of studying and a 10 minute break. Whichever increment works the best for you and the amount of studying you need to accomplish.
If you start to feel yourself going a little stir crazy then take a longer break. Just remember it is totally okay to take breaks!
Unwind before you go to bed
Don’t just roll off your desk and onto your bed.
Unwind a little bit. Watch a short show on Netflix or read a chapter in a NON ACADEMIC book. Just let your brain unwind a little bit so that you can relax enough to not only fall asleep quickly but also to lower your stress so you can have a good night of sleep.
It is also good for you overall to make sure that you are getting good sleep and going to bed more relaxed than stressed can significantly help with improving the quality of your sleep.
Minimizing screen time in the 30 minutes before sleep can help improve the quality of your sleep as well.
Using a Kindle has been a great solution to this for me, I wanted to stop using my phone 30 mins before bed but was running out of book space!
Review the syllabus
You do not want to miss something important because you were so busy studying the material.
Professors can have weird requirements like “you must bring a blue ink pen to take the exam with”. Don’t risk losing points over something like that. Just open your syllabus quick and go to the exam section and make sure you check for anything weird.
Also, if the syllabus goes over what chapters & material will be on each exam then make sure to double check that you are studying the right content. Of course you want to start studying the right material earlier but it doesn’t hurt to just verify you aren’t over studying or much worse… under studying!
My single biggest piece of advice for college students is to stay organized. I find the best way to do that in college is to use a pen and paper planner. (My obsession with using planners started in college and is where “planning my best life” originated from!).
My personal favorite is by Me and My Big Ideas – classic happy planners. They have the best layout and are the best size. They have a student themed one that is goals:
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