As the end of the school year approaches, Leaving and Junior Cert students across the country are gearing up to sit their exams. Facing a series of high-pressure tests can be daunting, but with the right mindset and preparation, it’s possible to perform at your best and achieve the results you’re aiming for.

Coming up to the start of the exams all the hard work is already done, it is a matter of revising your notes and preparing yourself for the exam.

1 Get in the right mindset: It is hard not to talk to your friends before an exam or debrief after, but sometimes it’s best to stay in your own headspace. Everyone prepares for an exam differently – some might listen to music, and others might look at their notes one last time. Do whatever works to get yourself into the right frame of mind and feeling confident in the work you have put in. Debriefing with peers after the exam can make you more stressed, as everyone answers questions differently. Doing this might not help prepare you for your next exam; particularly if it’s on the same day.

2 Do the basics right: It might be the simplest thing, but putting your exam number on each page you write on is essential. You would be surprised how many students forget to add their examination numbers to their rough work or essay answers. If your exam number isn’t on the page, it can’t be marked. I would recommend adding it to all of your booklets and papers before the exam starts. If you don’t use them that’s OK, but at least they’re prepared and ready to go. Also, ensure all your answers are labelled accordingly – especially if you are moving onto a new page.

3 Timing is essential: A key factor I learned during my Leaving Cert and college exams was the importance of timing. For questions worth more points, give yourself more time than for questions worth less. You should write your time out on a piece of paper when you go into the exam and stick to it. It’s easy to get side-tracked or spend longer on a question you know more about, but you don’t want to run out of time. You can always come back to it at the end if you have time. Some students find it helpful to start on a question they are confident with as it sets them off on a good note.

4 Take care of your health: Getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising regularly can all contribute to your overall wellness and help you perform better in your exams. Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water throughout exam season. When you are going into the hall to sit your exam, make sure you have your water with you.

5 Read the instructions: In the rush of an exam it is very easy to misread a question. Make sure you read each question carefully to understand what examiners are actually looking for in the answer. Read each question carefully, underline key parts, and get familiar with the layout of the exam paper.

6 Keep your desk clear: Once you have completed an exam, remove all the study materials from that subject from your desk so you can start fresh on the next exam. Keeping a clean desk will help you focus during your studying.

7 Take breaks: After each exam, it is important that before you put your head down and focus on the next exam on your timetable that you take a break. Looking after your mental health and clearing your head will help you retain more information when you do go back to the books. Go for a walk, a run or do some form of exercise to clear your head.

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