Five Ways to Mentally Prepare for Your Exams

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Brace yourself. Exams are coming. 

I know a lot of people (who are still in education) have already started their exams - and good luck to you lovely people - but for other June examinees like myself, time is ticking and it appears to be slipping away awfully fast. Cue panic-mode, the desperate wish for some sort of Time Turner and repeatedly asking yourself why, oh why, did you not start revising much sooner, even though if you'd started any sooner you would have started long before the course even started. All of this, as you can imagine, isn't helpful thinking. 

It took me a long time to realise that no amount of exam stress will ever be productive - instead it increases the likelihood of the "what is the point, this is a lost cause" mentality settling with the more pressure and stress and worry that I pile on. It's hard to focus on remembering the facts when you're focused on the fact that you're probably going to end up forgetting them. So this time around, I am making sure that even if I'm fairly sure that I'm not academically ready to sit the exams, I am mentally prepared to go into that examination room, head held high, and simply do my best. 

Here are five ways you can mentally prepare for your exams: 

I. Put it into perspective || Yes, exams are extremely important during the course of your academic career as your success is what allows you to progress, and doing well is also desirable for many reasons (making your family proud, giving you an end over your competitors on the job market, etc.) but guess what? Exams are also not the beginning and the end of the world. In the grand scheme of things, success or failure is only relative to a tiny area of your life, an assessment of how well you did in a certain subject at a given time and under a given set of circumstances. Remind yourself of the importance of exams at this particular point in your life, but don't hinge your entire being or self-worth on their outcome. Pass or fail, you'll still be you, and still be as awesome as you were before you looked at that piece of paper with your grades on them.

II. Exercise || Whether you get your heart pumping with a decent round of cardio or take some time to stretch out your muscles through a yoga flow, it's important to try and incorporate 20-30 minutes of exercise as often as you can manage it (even a 10-minute walk will do). Not only is exercise good for your overall health, you will feel more energised and give your stress an outlet instead of letting it drive you crazy or settle somewhere in your shoulders.

III. Get enough sleep || Ah the temptation of all nighters. Whilst I can't personally pull them (the closest I get to an all-nighter is sleeping around 2 a.m. and then waking up again at 5 a.m.), I've noticed that even the loss of a couple of hours of sleep will have a negative impact on my energy, concentration and stress levels. I'm also more likely to reach for unhealthy foods, which in turn leaves me more sluggish, which in turn affects my productivity levels. Do your best to get your 7-8 hours of sleep, sacrificing something else during the day if possible, to ensure that you get a good night's sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day. 

IV. Take a bath || I know, I know, sometimes it seems like there just isn't time to run a bath and sit there doing nothing other than relaxing, giving yourself time to breathe and pamper yourself, but trust me, you will feel better. Baths not only allow you to mentally relax, they offer your muscles a chance to release some of the tension you've been unknowingly building up as the stress of approaching exams mounts, and if you're struggling to sleep, a bath before bed with relaxing, soothing scents like lavender or chamomile will go a long way to helping you get a better night's sleep.

V. Stay positive || The things you say to yourself will affect your overall performance. Repeating to yourself every day "I'm screwed, I'm going to fail, I can't do this" is, at worst, going to end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy, and at best, going to stop you from doing your best. After all what's the point of giving all you can when you're fairly sure that you're going to fail anyway? Instead of encouraging the rising panic in your chest when faced with the looming exam date and the realisation that there just aren't enough hours in the day to ever finish going over your notes with more negativity, confront your fears and stress with words such as "I will do my best and my best will be good enough" or even something more brazen like "I am going to ace these exams" (though obviously don't tell yourself that whilst sat in front of the tv with your unopened books beside you). The subconscious is a powerful thing - you'll be surprised at the difference a slight change in your inner dialogue will make to your overall exam performance. 

How do you mentally prepare for an exam?

(PS: If you're looking for a ways to make your revision session more productive, check out this post.) 


  1. This is really good advice. When I was at uni, I made sure I had some fun too. Nothing too crazy, but like taking 1-2 hours a day to watch my favourite tv show, or doing some shopping for 2 hours or so per week. These little things helped me to relax and it really helped me concentrate on my work later. Good luck and hope your exams go well Euhnella :D

    Pam Scalfi♥

    1. It's true that taking time for yourself is an excellent way to get your focus back on your work at hand! Sometimes it's just so hard to feel like you're not wasting time, but time spent on yourself is rarely a waste! Thank you, Pam! x

  2. Awesome post, totally agree! Very nicely written.

    X Malena

  3. Great advice! Thanks for sharing!