When it comes time to take their major exams, you really have to treat them as a top class athlete. They need to eat the right foods, have the right mental attitude and let their body rest when it needs to leading up to their exams. These simple things can make all the difference to their mental clarity and performance.
You may be thinking ‘this is common sense!’ but common sense isn’t so common. I see it all the time, students drinking energy drinks like water, getting very little sleep and eating fatty comfort foods whilst cramming for their final exams.
- Here are my tips to help your kids perform to their best over the coming weeks exams:
- Create three zones
It’s important to have a Study zone; a Relaxation zone and a Sleep zone. Keep these areas distinct and make sure the study and sleep spaces are calm and uncluttered.
- Revision time table
Schedule time to study, relax and sleep. Break revision periods into manageable chunks.
- Your ‘to do list’
Only include a maximum of 7 items per day. Stay focused and don’t carry items over to the next day to complete.
- Take regular breaks
For every 2 hours spent studying, you should take a break of about 20 minutes. These short breaks should be used to unwind, chat to friends, have a drink and eat a healthy snack. It’s also important to take an extended break of around 3 or 4 hours each day to really ‘switch off’ from studying. If you feel worried or panicked, try thinking positive thoughts and practising breathing techniques – hopefully you will be more relaxed and able to focus when you start studying again.
- Get a good nights sleep
Studies have found that if you stay awake for 21 hours straight, you have the mental capacity of someone who is legally drunk (in terms of your ability to concentrate, memorise and recall information, etc).
You can’t afford to stay awake all night studying for an exam because you just won’t be effective on the day of the exam. Make sure you get on average 8 hours of sleep a night.
6. Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, everyday
Often students stop exercising when it comes exam time because they begin to think that they don’t have enough time (“I must spend every moment studying!”). Big mistake.
Exercise helps you study more effectively for various reasons. Firstly, it’s a great way to relieve stress and anxiety. Secondly, it gets blood flowing to your brain (supplying oxygen, antioxidant and glucose) which can help you to think more clearly.
Think of daily exercise (even a walk) as being an investment in your final marks
- Drink plenty of water
Often when we can’t think clearly and have a foggy memory, it’s because our brains need to be hydrated. While studying and taking your exams, make sure you take regular sips of water.
your teachers really are on your side (despite all evidence to the contrary).
- Focus on what you do know rather than what you don’t know
Chances are there will always be something that you could have studied more thoroughly or don’t know so well come the day of the exam. By that stage, you can’t do much about that, so is there any point worrying about it?
You are better off focusing on the fact that you now know so much more than you did before and a large number of the exam questions you’ll be able to answer.
9. Eat a low GI, nutritious breakfast
Studies have found that students who skip breakfast experience a 20-40% reduction in thinking skills (i.e. concentration, memory and alertness). You want to eat a low GI, nutritious breakfast to feel fuller for longer, stabilise your mood and give you plenty of energy for the day.
Here are some healthy breakfast ideas:
- Raw muesli or porridge with nuts and chopped fruit
- Wholegrain toast with a variety of toppings (e.g. baked beans, tomatoes, avocado, etc.) and a piece of fruit
- An omelette made with added vegetables (i.e. onion, spinach, tomato, and mushrooms)
- A fruit smoothie
- Avoid drinking caffeine (e.g. energy drinks, coke and coffee)
Caffeine is a stimulant drug. It gives you a rush and makes you feel good in the short term, but eventually it wears off and leaves you feeling cranky and wanting more.
It’s also a diuretic, so it makes you urinate, which means you lose water, become thirsty and want to drink more soft drink.
Studies have found that when we slurp on our cup of coffee or can of coke, we are actually inducing a state of stress. Caffeine drives the adrenal glands to produce stress hormones that in turn produce the fight or flight response.
Why not consider gradually replacing your caffeinated beverages with good old, simple water? If you must drink something sweet, try drinking low GI apple juice with no added sugar.
. EXAM TIME
- Head of early
Head to the exam with plenty of time. A lot of unexpected events can happen on your way there and you do not want to be late!
- Avoid stress heads
If there are people around who are panicking, avoid them. They are not doing you any favours!
- Go to toilet
Go to the toilet before the exam starts. Exams can be quite long and there is no time to waste.
- Write your name down
Remember to write your name on the exam paper. You would not believe how many people have forgotten to do it!
- Read all questions
Read all the questions carefully before starting and quickly plan how much time to allocate to each.
- Start with best
Start answering the questions that you feel most confident about. There is no need to answer the questions in order.
- Just get started
If your brain freezes, just start writing anything and you will soon start remembering more details.
- Stay on time
Don’t spend more time than you planned on a particular section/question or you might run out of time to answer other questions and gain those extra marks! Also, leave any questions that you are unsure about for the end.
- Ask questions
Don’t be afraid to ask the examiner if you are not clear on a question.
- Review where possible
Use every minute of the exam and if you have time left, review your answers before handing back the paper.
- Stay calm
Stay calm, you have done your homework and have nothing to fear!
- Take a few deep breaths when you get stuck
If you come across a question you’re not sure how to answer in the exam, stop for a moment and take a few deep breathes (in for the count of 3 and out for the count of 3). If you are not sure how to answer it there and then, move on to another question.
The worst thing you can do is start to panic, because as they say ‘stress makes you stupid’. You won’t be able to think clearly.
Best of luck,