Given that I've had about three exams in the past couple of weeks, it seems appropriate to talk about my pre-test routine. As a science major you're bound to have more exams than papers, so it's not a bad idea to develop a routine sooner rather than later. I started to develop a routine when I was in the biochemistry year-long sequence. We had exams pretty often, and I found that when I had a little bit of regularity before the exams I was more relaxed during the exam.
Here are the steps to my pre-test routine:
A Couple of Days Before Test:
The Night Before:
I make a playlist of 3-4 songs that get me pumped. These might be songs that help me relax or songs that get my blood flowing. I posted the two songs on my playlist for my most recent p-chem final below.
I generally start studying pretty hard core for an exam one week out, so the night before I try to stay relaxed and just review the most important concepts. In the days leading up to the test I make notes (no more than 10 pages total) of the most important things. I try to look at that sheet when I'm on the train, and I'll always make sure to look at the list again before the test. The night before an exam I try to get 6ish hours of sleep. I want to be able to tell myself that I worked hard, but I also want to make sure my brain is awake for the exam. I try to tell myself the night before that I've worked hard and have learned the things I need to already.
An Hour Before:
The Morning Of:
If it's a morning test I will get up a little bit early to study (maybe 30 minutes). If it's an afternoon exam I take whatever time I have to go over any materials that the instructor made (like worksheets or old homework). After all, they are the person writing the test. I try to get in their mind and think about what they might ask me.
ICED COFFEE! I never fail to grab a small iced coffee just before the test. It gives me a burst of energy, and maybe at this point I just need it for a sense of security. I try to bring some walnuts or almonds for during the test, if the professor will let you eat. Water, too – I hate when I forget to grab a water bottle for during the test. Sometimes it's nice to just sit back in your chair, take a little break from the test, and have a big gulp of water.
10 Minutes Before:
One thing I've learned to avoid is getting to the classroom early on a test day. It's always a little stressful in the room and I don't like to be around that right before I'm about to take a test. Ten minutes before the test I crank up my playlist, pretty much as loud as my headphones will go, and jam out. Sometimes I like to watch a video or look at pictures that make me happy. It's always nice to go in to the test feeling positive and energized.
So, if you don't yet have a pre-test ritual I'd recommend that you figure out whatever puts you in the best mood in the hours before an exam. I like to listen to music and sip on coffee, but maybe you'd prefer something else. Whatever it is, I'm pretty sure you'll be thankful for having a ritual already in place. That way, there's no need to get freaked out or anxious about the test.
Here are my pre-test songs for my most recent exam.