How to survive an afternoon exam

For many of you who have a bit of a comedown of an afternoon, waiting for an afternoon exam and having to perform well is something close to torture. Here are a few ways you can feel perked up and ready for the exam, and full of adrenalin to face it.

Succumb to a nap

A 10 to 20 minutes cap nap can work wonders, restoring alertness, enhancing performance, and reducing mistakes. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness by 100%.

However, aim to keep your naps short, between 10 to 30 minutes, as the longer you nap, the more likely you are to feel groggy. Also, the best time for a nap is usually between 2 to 3 pm when you might be experiencing post-lunch sleepiness or lower levels of alertness. After napping, remember to give yourself some time to wake up properly before going into the exam!

Get some fresh air

It’s been found that spending time in the fresh air, surrounded by nature (if at all possible near your school, college, uni or home!) increases energy by 90% and reduces the need for all those energy drinks and caffeine. Furthermore, the scents from flowers shrubs, such as pine trees, lavender and jasmine can also decrease stress and increase relaxation, making you feel calmer and happier. A twenty-minute walk might well be enough to give you that boost for your afternoon exam. 

However, it may be the case that you’ve got a two-exam day and have to stay in with a teacher over lunchtime. If this is the case, you’ll not be able to get outside and enjoy the sun, but will have to resort to indoor options. 

Eat right

You probably won’t be able to cook up a feast, but snacks such as blueberries, dried fruit or nuts will give you a chance to nibble on something, whilst lunches that are high in good fats such as peanut butter or avocado on toast will give you both the treat you deserve and something easy to prepare in the morning. Remember to drink lots of water throughout the day as well. 

Mellow music

Depending on whether you are raring to go or need something to help you relax, plug in and listen. Get your Spotify playlist out, and pump up the volume. Studies have shown that people listen to music to change their mood and give them an escape from reality. So if you are worried about your upcoming exams, play something calming, whilst if you want to get psyched up them play something a bit more lively. 

We also all have certain songs that we associate with memories, so if you’ve got an upcoming English exam and spent most of your English revision playing one song, then get it in your head before the time comes and you’ll bring back all those memories you didn’t even know you had.

Caffeine (but not too much!)

If you are not a good napper, or there’s no place for you to nap, a small dose of coffee can improve your mood, reaction time, memory, vigilance and general cognitive function. Just remember not to drink too much as you’ll get the shakes and won’t be able to concentrate on your exam.

Switch off

If you do have to sit in a stuffy classroom between exams, and can't think of anything else but the impending exam, bring something with you that will help you focus on something else, for example, a magazine, a novel, or a crossword. The act of doing something else, especially something like a crossword which you could also do with other people will allow your mind to settle and be stress-free ready for the afternoon exam. 


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