Tips to help you ace an exam

February 11, 2021 5 min read

Preparing for an exam

A student preparing for exams. (Wikimedia Commons/Gnarlycraig photo)

Preparing for exams and tests in high school and college may be essential to getting an A, entering the university of your dreams, or making the grade to go on for a master’s degree.

Assuming you’ve studied the subject or subjects thoroughly, what should you do just one before an exam?

If it’s a big mid-term or final, an Advanced Placement or a Graduate Record Exam or other graduate school test, most people have to study the subjects thoroughly during the semester or school year or years.

Attempting to learn all the material one hour before the very end is not a good strategy for a final exam or placement test.

Assuming you’ve done the necessary studying to score or place well, several websites have tips on what to do the morning of or right before a test.

Get enough sleep

It seems one of the most important things is getting a good amount of sleep. Exam-taking expert and author Ted Dorsey told Teen Vogue [1] that getting eight hours of sleep the night before an exam is ideal.

Some people may be tempted to study into the wee hours the night before an exam, but he says test-takers need proper sleep so they have the necessary focus and energy during the exam itself.

SAT tutor and exam expert Brian Witte, who holds a Ph.D., wrote an article Time magazine [2] in 2015 that listed sleep as the first step in preparing for an exam. He wrote that missing sleep the night before an exam and being exhausted can interfere greatly with remembering material you need to know to score well on a test. He wrote:

AP tests are designed to assess knowledge and skills that you accumulate over months of study, so frantically reviewing your notes the week before the exam will not help you. You can study an hour or so a day to keep yourself focused and on-topic, but avoid working late into the evening.

It’s necessary to get seven hours of sleep each night for a week right up until test day to get the circadian rhythms in sync. Being sleep-deprived before the nights leading up to an exam and then sleeping seven hours the night before can leave a person exhausted.

If the test is at 7 a.m. but you usually get up at 10 a.m., set the alarm for 6 a.m. every day of the week before the exam so your body gets used to the new sleep schedule.

A blog at Cornell University [4] gives some sound advice on how to get enough sleep before an exam. The site advises:

  • Sleep on a good mattress, keep the noise down, and stay cool in bed.
  • Avoid studying late, avoid using computing devices late into the night, avoid caffeine and alcohol, and set a firm bedtime.
  • Get exercise, meditate, and study early in the daytime.

Preparing for exams

Another site, Education Corner [3], includes test-taking advice and other learning tools for students in many fields.

The site gives several ways to prepare for tests:

  1. Be prepared, for there is no substitute for it. The site advises that you study diligently all semester.
  2. Arrive at the test site early, and relax a while before the exam begins.
  3. Listen attentively to last-minute instructions of the teacher or proctor.
  4. Carefully read the test instructions before you begin.
  5. Answer all the questions before time runs out, if you can. If you finish early, take time to review the test.
  6. Keep a positive attitude.

How to prepare for an exam

    Caffeine before an exam

    It’s a mistake to ingest big doses of caffeine the morning of the exam. Similarly, some students think they should avoid caffeine altogether. The site advises test-takers to do their usual caffeine routine.

    Viter Energy Mints blog featured a posting [5] about how to handle caffeine before a test.

    If you can find the optimal amount of caffeine for your own metabolism, the stimulating chemical can enhance memory. The blog posting recommends taking about half as much as the 400 mg of caffeine per day that healthy adults are advised to limit themselves to.

    Excess caffeine can make people feel lightheaded, give them anxiety attacks and headaches and make them feel tremulous. You don’t want to feel those sensations during a test. They can interfere with a student’s performance.

    A good way to get caffeine before an exam is to take Viter Energy Mints with 40 mg of caffeine [6]. Taking four or five of the mints will prevent you from needing bathroom breaks.

    The mints also contain energizing B vitamins, and the mint will refresh your breath. They are sugar-free and made with wholesome ingredients. In addition to being available at, you can buy them at our website shop [7].

    No cramming for an exam

    A blog at the State University of New York [8] advises against cramming a lot of memorization into short periods of time. Students retain new material learned over a longer period than they do by cramming.

    The blog also advises getting a proper diet of what it calls superfoods and anti-oxidants, including high-fiber, high-carbohydrate foods that digest more slowly days before the exam. The blog says to avoid a diet solely consisting of meat, cheese, eggs and cream.

    When you study, your brain consumes glucose, so take a five-minute break every hour to let your body produce more fuel for your studying. Eating a healthy snack is very beneficial and can make a significant difference (almonds, fruit, and yogurt are good choices).

    Don’t skip breakfast

    The site How To Learn has an article [9] about foods to eat before an exam. It says don’t skip breakfast even if you usually do. It says breakfast is extremelyimportant so the brain gets the energy it needs to function at its best.

    The site says to eat brain-powering foods, including nuts, eggs, yogurts, fruits and whole-grain cereals. If the test is in the afternoon, eat vegetables.

    Do exercise before an exam

    An article on the defunct Website Sugarpop told what to do just before an exam. It included a lot of good advice, including an admonition not to cram but rather to exercise just before a test. The article states:

    Forget last minute cramming and comparing notes with your pals and opt to spend 15 minutes before you go into your exam taking a walk. Not only will it help you relax, but it’s also been proved that exercise boosts your brain power and can help performance when you head inside to sit your exam.












    Mark Miller
    Mark Miller

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