Out of the house and into the exam hall: How to prepare for in-person exams

With the COVID-19 pandemic slowly beginning to finally fade away into our history, many of us have in-person exams for the first time in our university experience. Here are some of my tips collated from conversations I’ve had with fellow students at Warwick who have had first-hand experience with this!

By Arin Ososanya


Get used to the clock

Make sure to get used to working under timed conditions. Specifically, remember that you won’t be able to set a timer in the exam, so learn how to keep an eye on time while you do mock papers.

Simulate the exam as best as you can

Similar to the above, if you use a computer in the exam, try practicing a past paper on a computer instead of your laptop. It is important to get used to things such as the interface etc. If you write the exam by hand, practice doing so when you do mock exams in your study time. Get as close to the simulation as you can and make mistakes early on, so that you are not completely thrown off when it matters most.

A man with short brown hair leaning over a desk reading some papers. There is an open laptop and book also on the desk.
Image: University of Warwick.

Prepare in advance

This may sound simple, but think about the exam day in advance. Will you need writing materials or a calculator? Do you need to allow extra time for travel? Do you need your ID card? It helps to pack everything you need the night before, so that when you wake up, in the frenzy of getting ready, you don’t forget any important things when leaving your house.

Bonus tip: Pick out what you’re going to wear the night before as well, so that when you wake up, you’re up and ready to go.

Get a good night’s rest

This is so important, it cannot be overstated. Go to bed early and avoid pulling all-nighters to study the night before. The last thing you want to do is sleep through your alarm the morning of your exam! If you need to catch the bus to campus, for example, then you would need to wake up at a certain time so that you have enough time to get ready before then leaving the house. This also applies if you plan to have a meal before the exam (which is recommended).


Get to the exam venue on time

Whether it’s a library, a lecture hall or classroom, make sure you arrive between 20-30 minutes earlier than your exam is set to start. This allows you to remain relaxed, so that you don’t arrive in a frenzy and head straight into the exam in an anxious headspace. Additionally, you can use this time to meditate on the things you’ve learned in that module – reflect on any key terms, facts or pieces of information that you want to remember while taking the exam. Remember not to overdo it – this is not the time for last-minute cramming or revision as it is important to have a sharp mind.

An image of the Junction building. There are lots of trees surrounding the building and a blue sky. The word 'Junction' is on the side of the building in large black letters.
Make sure you know where your exam is taking place! Image: Angel Sun.

Read and listen to instructions carefully

So many of us have made the mistake of not listening out for instructions or not taking the time to read the instructions on the paper carefully before writing. This can lead to serious errors which could have been avoided. Pay close attention to what is said and written during the exam, so that you don’t lose out on marks.

Don’t panic

Everything begins with your mind. If your mind is cloudy and stressed, it will make it difficult to focus on the exam and perform at your best. If you feel panicked or anxious prior to or during the exam, try to practice some breathing exercises to clear your mind and re-centre your focus.

You have prepared for this exam and have come such a long way, so go in with that mindset of “I’ve got this. I can do this.” Get excited to show off your knowledge to your professors and know that everything will be alright! You are more than just a student and you are at this university for a reason.

All the best!

Has this article helped you in any way? Do you have any other rituals you follow? Let us know on Twitter @warwicklibrary, on Instagram @warwicklibrary, or by emailing us at libraryblogs@warwick.ac.uk

If you’d like further information on exams, check out our fool-proof guide here. You can also take a look at our articles on memorising information for exams or revising for closed book exams.

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