What to do the Night Before

Trials are around the corner and so hopefully you’ve been working through past papers and making sure your notes are solid. But for some of you, trials are going to be earlier than others (ie first day back etc) so you may be worrying about the overall timeline of getting things done etc. and as typical HSC students you’ve probably left things to the last minute.

Hence, it’s important to consider what you should be doing the night before an exam.

Realistically this depends on how prepared you are. If you’ve read through your notes a dozen times and gone through all the past papers you could get your hands on, then you probably need to take some time off to relax before the test.

However, if you’ve got a couple more topics left to learn, then it is important to prioritize them. Start off listing the topics in terms of difficulty. Then simply choose the most difficult topic and attempt a couple of past paper questions on it. If you can scrape together a couple marks from the question, then you should move to the next topic. If you can’t then spend a bit of time revising your notes and then go back to the exam questions. Our goal here isn’t to achieve a complete understanding of the topic (the time for that is long gone) instead you need to see whether you can get a couple marks if a question for that topic appears in your exam. By having an exam question focus for each topic you can be sure that you’ve done as much as you can the night before an exam.

Now, to some common problems faced by most students.

First up, to sleep or not to sleep, that is the question (hamlet quotes anyone??). Huh? Sleeping before an exam, is that even a thing? Before you start to chug a couple of red bulls and settle in for a night of studying, hear me out. Being relaxing  the night before is incredibly vital the night before an exam. Many top achievers usually do a little bit of light revision by reading their notes or teaching someone the content they need to remember, or some even watch TV shows or movies the night before, preferring to enjoy their night rather than stress over the exam the next day.

How does this help? Getting a good night’s sleep and relaxing helps your brain take a rest for a bit. Chances are, you’ve studied for crazy hours for the past couple of days that your brain is probably over taxed. Furthermore, the opportunity cost of being relaxed and revitalised on the day of the exam was better than cramming an hour or two of inefficient and unfocused study wouldn’t result in many marks gained the next day. Instead a fresh mind would allow them to most importantly stay awake during the exam as well as being able to think clearly in order to answer each question properly. Thus, if you feel fairly prepared then it’s probably best to take a breather and relax as the extra study probably isn’t worth it.
On the morning of the exam, it’s incredibly important you stick to your normal routine. You shouldn’t change anything up in terms of sleep time, food intake etc. By changing things, you expose yourself to a whole host of unknown variables that can result in you being sleepy, hungry, and probably stressed out.

As with last night, basic revision on the morning of the exam should suffice. Last minute cramming outside the exam room isn’t going to help much as you’ll probably get even more nervous as none of what you’re reading actually sinks in.

Instead of fussing over content, think about how you’ll approach the exam. What order are you going to attempt the paper and what happens if you don’t know something are you going persevere or skip over? By focusing on the task at hand, once you enter the exam room you’ll feel a lot more confident and prepared.

I guess, no one can really tell you what you need to do before the night of an exam, but hopefully the tips above can guide your plans for the night.

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