What To Do Before An Exam?

Exam tension is at its peak the day before an exam. These tips by an expert on what to do before an exam will make your child feel calm and ready to face it. They will also help her do well in exams.

By Leena Ghosh  • 11 min read

What To Do Before An Exam?

The 2020 CBSE board exams are just days away. It is time for your child to pull up his sleeves and give it his best shot. And, he should remember that the days leading up to the exams are as important as the D-day itself. For, this is the time when the fear of exam creeps in, and anxiety and stress begin increasing.

To help your child stay composed and focussed on doing well in exams, here are a few tips by our expert, Dr Meghna Singhal, on what to do the day before an exam.

What to do one day before exam?

1. Keep important documents ready

It’s vital that students check and keep their documents such as admit card and other supporting certificates ready the night before the exam. Dr Meghna adds, “It’s also a good idea to visit the examination centre a few days before if it’s an unfamiliar venue. This will save a lot of time and prevent last-moment anxiety attacks.”

2. Check and pack all stationery

Ask your child to check his stuff like pens, pencils, sharpeners and erasers, and then pack his bag. If there is something missing, you can get it for your child on your way back from the office the previous evening.

3. Be familiar with the venue

Dr Meghna says, “It’s a good idea to visit the examination centre a few days before if it’s an unfamiliar venue. This will save a lot of time and prevent last-moment anxiety attacks.”

4. Educate him on time management

“Many students make the mistake of not timing themselves. They spend a lot of time attempting the first few questions and then realising they are running out of time when it comes to completing their papers. As a result, they end up rushing through the paper and not paying enough attention to the questions. They begin feeling anxious as they aren't mentally prepared for it,” says Dr Meghna. So, with the help of mock question papers, help your child learn how to divide his time between different questions or sections of the question paper. Timed tests will certainly help towards addressing this.

5. Avoid caffeinated products

Caffeine-containing products like coffee, chocolate or health drinks should be avoided as they can increase alertness and disrupt sleep.

What to do the night before an exam? 

1. Encourage her to revise before she sleeps

Research has proved that studying before bedtime helps in better recall. According to the study, ‘Memory for Semantically Related and Unrelated Declarative Information: The Benefit of Sleep, the Cost of Wake’, by Payne et al, published in PLoS One (2012), "Sleep is most beneficial to memory 24 hrs later if it occurs shortly after learning…sleep does in fact stabilize declarative memories, diminishing the negative impact of subsequent wakefulness." So, ask your child to revise from key notes before she goes to bed the night before the exam.

2. Ensure she gets enough rest 

The night before exam, ensure your child gets enough rest and sleep. “Make sure that she does not study all night before the exam day as it will interfere with her ability to think. A working brain that is well nourished and rested will enable answering questions better, even if she hasn’t been able to prepare to her satisfaction. Many children also feel hungry while writing exams; so, it’s important your child eats a healthy and filling meal before the exams,” says Dr Meghna.

3. Avoid screen devices

Discourage your child from watching or reading something on the mobile, tablet or laptop. The blue light given off by these devices can upset the circadian rhythm and interfere with sleep.

4. Offer a glass of warm milk

Exam stress can, at times, make it impossible for your child to fall asleep. So, give your child a glass of warm milk at bedtime to help him sleep better.

5. Set the alarm

Waking up at the right time is important to ensure that your child reaches the examination hall with some time to spare. Rushing through the motions like bathing, having breakfast, running to catch the bus would cause undue stress.

What to do the morning of an exam?

1. Eat a healthy breakfast

A good breakfast would ensure that your child has the energy to sit through the exams. It is best to include foods which release energy slowly and keep your child going through the duration of the exam.

2. Give a pep talk

As the minutes fly by and exam time nears, your child may feel edgy or panicky. So, give her a pep talk to help her stay positive and confident. Also, tell her to avoid talking to those who can make her feel nervous or unsure of herself.

What to do 1 hour before an exam?

1. Practise relaxation techniques 

On exam day, encourage your child to do visualisation exercises. “Ask her to close her eyes, take deep breaths and visualise herself sitting in the exam hall, attempting all the questions without difficulty and coming out of the hall. This is a standard visualisation exercise that may help,” explains Dr Meghna. She further adds, “Many students also complain of nervousness and sweaty palms while attempting the paper. If this is the case with your child, ask her to do deep breathing exercises before attempting the paper. But, remember, deep breathing works only when your child has been practising it for some time. Otherwise, it does not work as a relaxation tool. It has to be done every day in order to work.”

2. Check her surroundings

When your child enters the exam hall and occupies her seat, she should first check the condition of the furniture. She should also see if there is something scribbled on the furniture. If so, then she should bring it to the invigilator’s attention. If there are pieces of paper or any reading material lying around her seat, she should ask the invigilator to get them removed.

3. Visit the restroom

Make sure your child goes to the restroom a few minutes before entering the exam hall so that she doesn’t have any urge or discomfort later.

What not to do before an exam

1. Use social media

The social media is always active and bursting with activity. While it may be an exciting place to be, it could also distract your child from his studies. So, ask your child to cut down or discontinue his social media use before and during the exams.

2. Stay awake late

Make your child understand that staying up late at night to cram the lessons would not only upset his sleep schedule but also make him panic. So, it is best to avoid studying late into the night.

3. Compare with peers

Often children begin to compare themselves with their friends or peers. They begin to feel that they are lagging behind others in preparation. So, ask your child to focus on his own preparation and progress, and not get carried away by what others are doing.

4. Sit with the books all day

While preparing well for exams should be the foremost objective on your child’s mind, remind him that, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’. Encourage him to take breaks, preferably for 5 to 7 minutes after every 45 minutes to an hour of study.

5. Give in to stress

Preparing to do well in exams puts enormous pressure on children. At times, it could lead to your child forgetting what he has learnt or misplacing his notes and so on. Ask your child to stay calm and focussed instead of feeling panicky. 

Motivate and encourage your child through the exam season and be there to listen to him when he feels the need to talk. Don’t compare the effort and time he puts in with his peers. Also, avoid speculating about his performance when he comes back from the examination centre. Take each day as it comes and focus on the task in hand rather than what could have been. And, let your child draw inspiration from the pioneering industrialist William Durant’s words – “Forget past mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except what you’re going to do now and do it.” Yes, let your child focus right now only on his exams and nothing more. Success will certainly be his! ParentCircle wishes your child all the very best!

#KeepCalmExamOn with ParentCircle!

Stressed about exams? Call our Counsellors on 8754414666 / 044-66236611 in Feb (Tues & Fri, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.)   

 About the author:

Written by Leena Ghosh on 14 February 2019. Updated on 13 February 2020.

This article has inputs from Dr Meghna Singhal, a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist and a parenting consultant at ParentCircle.

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