There is no doubt about it — exams can be stressful. The night before the exam can be especially hard as you try to fall asleep and may worry about whether you have prepared enough or if you could have done more. In having such thoughts, you are only stressing yourself out more than necessary. Instead, you can choose to follow some of these best practices the night before an exam so that you can remain calm, wake up feeling refreshed, and enter the test ready to do well.
Before we get to some best practices, let’s talk about what you can do well before the night before an exam in order to be ready. You’ll want to be proactive in all your endeavors and plans to study in advance. This means being able to manage your time effectively, as it will help you feel more confident on the big day.
When you are taking any course, you should outline the deadlines and test dates in the beginning and work backwards with material to break it down into smaller chunks and learn along the way, rather than cramming around the test time. When you feel like you can own the material, then you will have no reason to stress the night before an exam.
Regardless of the steps you take to study in advance, here are a few tips and tricks to try around exam time, and specifically, the night before the exam.
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Tips You Should Do the Night Before the Exam
1. Eat a healthy meal:
You should always eat as healthily as possible, but this is especially true the evening before a big test and in the day of a test. You will want to eat a balanced meal with some carbohydrates for energy, protein for brainpower and a small amount of natural sugars. Having too much sugar the night before an exam could keep you awake, and if you have high amounts of sugar before an exam, you may feel the crash during the test or it will be hard to focus.
2. Set an alarm (or two):
The worst thing you can do is miss the test! In order to avoid this, be sure to set your alarm the night before. Rather than hitting snooze consistently, set an extra alarm for a few minutes later so that if you happen to miss the first, you have a backup ready to go off and wake you.
3. Don’t drink too much water:
While it’s always important to stay hydrated, you will want to avoid drinking too much water the night before an exam as having a full bladder could wake you up during the night to use the bathroom. Sleep is really important before an exam, so you don’t want any interruptions.
4. Get enough sleep:
Sleeping helps your brain both process and retain information. It will also have you ready to go with energy the next day, so aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep before exam day.
5. Review study notes:
If you’ve been studying all along in bits and pieces during the course, you will feel better prepared for the test. However, it’s always a good idea to review study notes the day before an exam to refresh your memory.
6. Don’t study too late:
Going hand in hand with getting good sleep, don’t pressure yourself to stay up all night to study. Studying late may burn you out and make you more anxious, so set a good cut-off time so that you have time for a healthy dinner with some time to wind down and relax before bed.
7. Work out:
Working out increases your endorphins and helps to reduce stress levels. It’s always a good idea to do some form of physical activity that you enjoy. Whether that means going for a run, taking a short walk, practicing yoga or taking a group exercise class, getting in physical activity will positively affect both your physical and mental health, and also likely help you sleep better throughout the night.
8. Prepare for the morning:
When you wake up on your exam day, you don’t want to have to worry about anything. That’s why it’s a good idea to prepare the night before. This can include packing a snack, preparing breakfast in advance (overnight oats are always a good idea), and even laying out your clothes. You can also make sure your bag is packed with any tools you need (such as calculators, pens, pencils, etc.) so that when you wake up, you’re ready to go!
9. Visualize positive outcomes:
Visualization techniques are powerful tools to help envision an outcome before it happens and manifest positivity. From athletes to politicians and more, many successful people use this mental tool to create their reality, and as a student, you can, too. Visualizing positive results can help you achieve your goals and stay calm. By seeing yourself taking the test and doing well before it happens, you can help to transform your beliefs into reality.
While it may sound easier said than done, you want to be relaxed before an exam. In a relaxed state of mind, you can think more clearly, access your memory, and be best prepared for an exam. In order to relax the night before or the day of an exam, try some of the following: exercise, meditate, do yoga, lessen caffeine intake, decrease sugar consumption, burn a candle, listen to music, go for a walk, etc. Everyone finds different ways to relax, so be sure to do whatever works best for you.
Things to Remember
In order to be prepared for exam day, write yourself a checklist of things to remember. This could include:
- Scantron or testing booklet (if required)
- Calculator (if allowed)
- Cheat sheet (if allowed)
Other useful items to pack for before and after an exam include:
- Healthy snack
Again, try to have everything prepared the night before so that when it comes time for exam day, you are not worried about trivial matters.
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The Bottom Line
It’s important to remember that exams are not meant to scare or intimidate you. Rather, they are designed to test your knowledge of material that you have already been taught, so it’s best to stay up-to-date in classes and manage your time wisely so that you always feel prepared. Everyone has different study techniques and useful resources, but when you find your methods, you can stick to them and be successful!
Can you pass a test by studying the night before? ›
Late night cram sessions aren't a very effective way to study. It may seem like you're making the most of your time by studying until the last minute, but by not giving your brain a chance to rest you'll have a harder time remembering the information you studied.Is cramming the night before an exam effectively? ›
Cramming Doesn't Cut It
Cramming may seem like an effective way for students to prepare for a test, but it only leads to more stress and disappointing performance. To get the most out of studying, the solution is constant, repeated exposure to the material, and a well-rested and healthy mind.
We recommend this: come home and take a little nap before you start to study (20-30 minutes). Then start fresh. Get a regular night of sleep 6.5-8 hours, but go to bed early. Then start studying again first thing when you wake up until it is time to take the exam.Is it a good idea to stay up all night before an exam? ›
It impairs your cognitive function
Sleep deprivation impacts your cognitive function by affecting your memory, ability to concentrate and your problem-solving skills. Put simply, you're not at your best after staying up all night, which means it's the worst time to take a test.
Avoid late-night study
Studying right before bedtime keeps your mind active when it should be winding down.
Scores of studies conclude that students really do better when they sleep. Sleeping poorly (or not at all) leads to worse test results and poorer ability to learn new things. In fact, an all nighter hurts your ability to think, reason, and understand to the same degree as if you were taking your test drunk.Is 3 hours of sleep enough for exam? ›
You need a minimum of three hours and the best times to sleep are between 2AM and 6AM. Your body heat is lowest from 3-4AM, so you are drowsiest then and your memory retention is extremely poor. Sleep helps the mind absorb and retain the information you reviewed while studying.What should I do 1 hour before an exam? ›
- Relax. It is essential to keep yourself stress-free and calm before an exam, as stress only serves to impair memory and paralyze you during the exam. ...
- Eat Fibre Rich Foods. Watching what you eat is extremely important, especially right before an examination. ...
- Exercise. ...
- Confirm you have everything. ...
- Be on time.
- Wake up early. ...
- Choose the right place to work. ...
- Go to the library prepared. ...
- Create a plan before you start. ...
- Refrain from panicking. ...
- Use lecture slides and past papers. ...
- Study without technology and social media. ...
- Re-read your lecture notes and highlight.
- Take a nap. ...
- Caffeine – yes or no? ...
- Order some pizza in. ...
- Avoid procrastination. ...
- Take regular breaks. ...
- Keep yourself stimulated. ...
- Set some alarms. ...
- Do some exercise.
Is it better to pull an all nighter or sleep before an exam? ›
Stress hormones like cortisol also spike after a sleepless night, and sleep deprivation increases anxiety. Stress and anxiety will hurt your academic performance the day after an all-nighter. In most cases, it's better to avoid an all-nighter.How much sleep is too little before an exam? ›
Get the requisite seven to eight hours of sleep the night before too, to optimize alertness on the test. "Trying to stay up late and cram for a test is probably the very worst thing you could do," Saper said.Is pulling one all nighter OK? ›
All-nighters have extensive and potentially serious negative effects. Sleep is vital to the proper functioning of the body, and completely skipping a night of sleep can harm your thinking and cognition, your mood and emotions, and your physical well-being.What time of day is your brain sharpest? ›
New research shows that our brains work best in the middle of the day - if asked to perform abstract, logical or problem-solving tasks.How can I memorize notes in one night? ›
- Be alone. ...
- Remove yourself. ...
- Consume Caffeine. ...
- Work hard, then stop. ...
- Reduce your notes. ...
- Find Someone. ...
- Focus on the main points. ...
- Group things together.
The general rule of thumb used to be that you couldn't make up for lost sleep, but now a new study says that it might not be a bad idea to catch a few extra hours of shut-eye on the weekend if you need it.How long will you sleep affects your test score? ›
Increasing one's hours of sleep from say two hours to eight hours might well have resulted in an increase of roughly 20% on a final exam score, which would mean an increase of about 5% in final course average.Should I sacrifice sleep to study? ›
It might seem like a reasonable sacrifice to give up a little sleep to hit the books late into the night, but new researchsays this strategy doesn't work. This study found that students who stay up late doing homework are more likely to have academic problems the next day.How can I score 100% in my exam? ›
Studying hard for only a few hours the night before the test isn't going to help ensure perfect scores. If you really want to ace those exams, study old and new material every day, or at least several times a week. This will make test-taking a breeze. Take study breaks.
Get a calendar and write down the date of your exam. The day before will be a full revision day, then count backward two days from the last revision day and that will be the next revision day, do the same for the next 3, 5, and 7 days and you'll have a perfect revision calendar.
Is it possible to pass exams same day? ›
With discipline and focus, you can still succeed on your exam with only one day to prepare. While it is always best to prepare for a test at least a week in advance, sometimes life gets in the way. There are a few ways to guarantee your best performance on your test with only one day to study.Is it better to pull an all nighter or sleep 2 hours? ›
Sleeping between 90 and 110 minutes gives your body time to complete one full sleep cycle and can minimize grogginess when you wake. But any sleep is better than not at all — even if it's a 20-minute nap.Is 2 hours sleep enough before exam? ›
At least 4 hours of sleep is necessary to maintain your focus.Can lack of sleep affect exam? ›
Lack of quality sleep can also cause exam stress and anxiety.Is 5 hours of sleep enough for exams? ›
Up late studying, or a new parent? Sometimes life calls and we don't get enough sleep. But five hours of sleep out of a 24-hour day isn't enough, especially in the long term. According to a 2018 study of more than 10,000 people, the body's ability to function declines if sleep isn't in the seven- to eight-hour range.At what point is it considered an all-nighter? ›
What's an all-nighter? An all-nighter is defined as a single night of total sleep deprivation. That is, 0 hours of sleep. It's a fairly common practice for students, particularly in college.How long is a power nap? ›
“A power nap is a nap that's short — less than 30 minutes long,” says Safia Khan, MD, a specialist in sleep disorders and an assistant professor in the department of family and community medicine and the department of neurology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.Do all nighters cause permanent damage? ›
While pulling a late night once in a while isn't great for your health, repeated all-nighters could lead to permanent brain damage.How many hours of sleep is needed during exams? ›
You need to allow yourself, 8-9 hours' sleep every night. This will allow your brain to fully function the next day, your concentration levels will remain high and you will have more energy throughout the day.Is 4 hours of sleep enough before an exam? ›
At least 4 hours of sleep is necessary to maintain your focus. However, that is easier said than done. Sometimes, when your revision is not that great, your best bet is cramming all that you can on the night before the exam.