10 Steps: Ace Any Exam

May 5, 2013

As mentioned last week, tomorrow kicks off the first week of College Board’s AP exams. Over the next twelve days numerous students will be putting their knowledge to the test as they strive to ace these challenging exams. While these tests are both mentally and physically taxing, these ten steps can help you do your best.

1. Stop studying: Although it seems counterintuitive, research shows that studying too much can negatively affect a student’s performance on an exam. There comes a point when the amount of energy spent on reviewing information actual takes away from the amount of information that is retained. So put your books away 24 hours before your scheduled exam and give your brain the rest it needs.

2. Schedule something fun: Reward all the hard work you have done with plans to do something fun after your exam. Rent a movie, go out with friends, or simply treat yourself to some frozen yogurt. Having something fun to look forward to after your exam helps calm your nerves and gives you something to get excited about. It also helps you push through some of the mental anguish of a challenging exam because you know the test won’t last forever.

3. Avoid intense physical activity: The night before an exam is not the time to schedule a 5K or a wrestling match. It is important to try to minimize the amount of adrenaline that is dumped into your body. It’s best to let both your body and your mind relax. Try taking a hot bath or practicing stretching instead.

4. Sleep, sleep,sleep: The importance of a good night’s rest can’t be overstated. Our brains need quality sleep in order to fully process information. All of your hours of studying will be wasted if you don’t give yourself the right amount of rest. Make sure you go to bed early enough so you can get a full 8 hours of rest. Skip anything that has caffeine and don’t go to bed on a full stomach.

5. Lay out everything you need: Getting everything organized the night before will save time, energy, stress. Make sure you have everything that you need for your specific test. Bring any registration information, photo identifications, writing utensils, and anything else your teacher has told you to bring. Set out comfortable clothes and shoes, and don’t forget to dress in layers. Testing facilities often fluctuate between being too hot and too cold.

6. Eat breakfast: Make sure you wake up with enough time to eat a solid breakfast that includes protein, carbohydrates, and a healthy source of fat (like peanut butter). Your food will give you the energy you need to make it through your test. Avoid anything that is highly processed or full of sugar. You don’t want to have a blood sugar crash during your test because that will take away your focus. Foods like eggs, toast, peanut butter, milk (dairy, soy, almond), chicken are all great examples of the right type of fuel.

7. Leave with enough time: Traffic can be unpredictable and the last thing you need is the extra level of stress that comes with being late. Make sure you leave at least 15 minutes earlier than normal. Giving yourself this time cushion can help ease any additional travel anxiety.

8. Take snacks and water: Many standardize tests are between a couple to several hours long. It is good idea to bring a couple types of healthy snacks (nuts, granola bars, dried fruit) to keep with you during these long days. This way if you start to feel hungry or tired you will be prepared.

9. If you don’t know the answer, skip it: A major mistake students make during a test is wasting time on questions they don’t know the answer to. Even if it something you could remember the night before, don’t waste your precious time trying to figure out the test questions in order. If something has slipped your mind, leave it and come back to it. Chances are you will remember later on and can answer that question correctly.

10. Leave enough time to review your answers: Lastly, before you turn your test in make sure you review your answers and any answer booklets. Taking a couple minutes to ensure you accurately answered the questions can help save you points. Read over any essays or writing examples to ensure you didn’t make any simple mistakes such as grammar or spelling. Reviewing your work should give you that last bit of confidence that you have done everything in your power to ace your test.

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