How to Feel Confident when Taking an Exam

When exam week rolls around, many students feel mentally paralyzed.  Instead of entering the exam room feeling confident, their fears defeat and deplete them.  Exams, unlike quizzes, aren’t spur of the moment events.  You know when they’re scheduled, and you can boost your confidence by following these suggestions:

Keep up with the schedule –
At the beginning of the year, instructors will discuss what you can expect in their class.  They also pass out a schedule (or scope and sequence) that lists in detail when chapters will be covered, what reading is required and when to expect an exam.    

Make an extra copy of this information and tack it on your bulletin board at home.  Place the other copy inside your notebook and highlight important dates.  You might also scan it into your laptop.  Just be sure to glance at the calendar on a daily basis so you’ll know how much time you have to prepare for the next event.  A student with confidence at exam time is one who is not caught off guard.

Keep up in class –
Each time a new chapter or subject is covered in class, pay attention and take notes.  You don’t have to take down every word your teacher says, just focus on what is stressed or emphasized.  Need some tips?

Listen up when your instructor gives background material or a more detailed explanation.  This usually means it’s a key point.  It may be a particular word, definition, concept, experiment, person or event.  It may be brought up in a class discussion.  Listen up!

Notice what is presented on the smart board or via an overhead projector.  Take notes and highlight or underline key information.  If it’s not already in your textbook and the teacher brings it up, listen for what is stressed – the main idea, an event, a person, or a date, etc.  

Watch for a closing statement.  Often the instructor will sum up everything on that day’s lesson with a closing sentence, a question or by reviewing key material that is likely to show up on the exam.

Keep up after class –
A confident student takes a few moments every evening to check the next day’s scheduled classes – and does whatever is necessary to be prepared.  This includes any reading assignments, homework and review of notes.   It helps to focus on one thing at a time and to get the toughest assignments done first. 

If you’ve got a long chapter to read or an essay to write, it does matter how you approach it.  Make sure all study materials are at hand and in order.  Have a healthy snack (fruit, protein bar, etc.) and a bottle of water within reach so you won’t be hopping up and down a dozen times.  Don’t overheat your room as this will make you drowsy.  Hang a “do not disturb” sign on your door and turn your cell phone to silent.

When reviewing class notes, highlight new words, concepts or information.  Read a paragraph out loud and then see if you can summarize the main thought in one or two sentences. This is great practice for essay exams.  If you keep up with your class on a daily basis this way, you won’t ever have to cram for an exam again!

Wake your brain –
On the day of the examination, get up in time to wake your brain with a quick shower.   Wear clothes that are loose and comfortable – nothing binding or tight.  Dress in layers if possible.  This way, if the exam room is too cool or too warm, you are prepared. 

Feed your brain –
Be sure you eat something before the exam.  A growling stomach or hungry brain don’t do well.  Granola-protein bars and a piece of fruit will break down slower in your system than simple carbs and sugar.  This provides sustained energy and focus during the exam.   

Trust your brain –
Okay, you know the material.  You’ve kept up with classes and reviewed your notes one day at a time.  You’ve done your assignments and you understand the material.  Now you’re ready to enter the classroom feeling confident so you can trust your brain to do what its job – recalling the information you’ve stored there.