THE NIGHT BEFORE AN ASSESSMENT OR EXAM – WHAT TO DO!?
This article was written by Imogen Van Der Meer, a current English & Literature tutor. Imogen currently is accepting students, so if you’re interested in her services, please go here.
It can be one of the hardest things to do: falling asleep the night before a major assessment task. You know you need enough sleep to be able to perform at your best, but you’re also worried that everyone you’ve studied will fall out of your head during your slumber. So you lie there, with the lights out, going over quotes, definitions, even algorithms… over and over and over again, ensuring they stay in your brain until the end of the next day. Every now and again, you might jump out of bed and frantically rummage through your notes, convinced you’ve memorised a definition wrong, or have left out a whole chunk of information. Eventually, if you’re lucky, you’ll fall asleep… but it won’t be a deep sleep, and you’ll wake up feeling like you’ve fought in a battle. Then you’ll get to school, and have mini heart-attacks whenever you hear someone talking about the assessment. Stress levels will be at full bore until the teacher says those magic words; ‘pens down’. And then you’ll breathe for the first time in 24 hours.
And that’s if you haven’t left all of your studying until the night before!
I won’t go into all that ‘start studying early’ stuff, because by now, you’ve either decided to take that advice, or you’re just going to wing it with whatever you can grasp together on the train ride to school. And that’s fine, everyone has different thresholds as to how much effort they’re willing to put into their study.
Regardless of whether you’ve studied for the past three weeks or the past three minutes, however, everyone is going to experience the anxiety felt the night before a SAC or exam.
And I’ve come up with a list of things that helped me deal with this angst, and fall into that deep slumber that is so essential to performing at your best.
- DON’T READ YOUR NOTES – It’s too late! What you know isn’t going to disappear, and what you don’t know isn’t going to sink in.
Okay, I’ll admit, I’m not totally convinced with the whole ‘nothing can be learnt the night before’ thing. But I am convinced that whenever I looked at my notes, I started getting caught up in something that I didn’t feel confident with. So I would invest so much energy into this one tiny part of my study, and half the time it wouldn’t even appear on the assessment! Then I would just get flustered, and make mistakes on things that I knew really well.
Long story short, it’s worth trying to cram any extra information in the night before; and if you’ve planned your studying properly, there shouldn’t be anything left to cram in!
2. READ OVER THE SAC/EXAM REQUIREMENTS AND LAYOUT – I found this particularly helpful with Science Pracs because it helped me get an idea of what ‘reaction’ was expected to happen. Also, for English, ensuring you know the proper structure of the essay you are writing will make it easier to map out your thoughts under time constraints. In Maths, a quick scan of the topic subheadings will give you a clearer picture of the types of questions you’ll encounter.
And for the final exams at the end of the year, it helps to know exactly how much time you have, how many sections there are, and the requirements of each section. Looking over this one last time the night before helped me relax because I knew exactly what had to be done the next day. Nothing caught me off guard, in other words.
3. ASK YOURSELF QUESTIONS FOR 30 MINS – This is my version of ‘last-minute study’. While I was thinking about the things I would be tested on the next day, I usually asked myself questions that I think will be tested on. These can be the smallest of things, for instance ‘what was that character’s name that appeared in only one scene?’ or ‘how do I spell that word again?’. These are the things that I would check one last time the night before. They probably didn’t help in any way; as in, I didn’t learn anything new. But they did calm me down because I could say to myself that I was preparing in some way. Giving myself just half an hour to ‘confirm my understanding’, so to speak, was enough to stop my mind from ticking constantly as I lay in bed staring at the ceiling.
4. DO HOMEWORK FOR OTHER SUBJECTS – This will help take your mind off the stressful assessment that lay ahead. It forces your brain to focus on something else, making you less likely to work yourself up into a frenzy over not preparing enough in advance. Sometimes, thinking about something else helps you organise the most important thoughts in an efficient order.
5. EAT A PROPER DINNER – This has so many benefits. Firstly, delicious food makes everything better. Secondly, your brain will be thankful for fuelling it properly. Also, a nice, hearty meal will help you become sleepy. And finally, taking time away from your books to enjoy a nice meal gives you a guilt-free excuse to stop thinking about studying for 20 minutes. Everyone needs to eat, of course!
6. WIND DOWN – Going straight to bed after closing your workbook is not a good idea! There needs to be a time in between, where your mind can slow down and start drifting off into that beautiful sleepy faze. You might like to watch a TV show or read a couple of chapters of a book. Maybe you just want to play with your dog for a little bit. It doesn’t really matter what you do, so long as it’s relaxing; and has nothing to do with school. So I wouldn’t suggest calling your friend to see how they feel about the assessment. It will just freak you out even more.
7. GO TO BED EARLY – As I keep saying, sleep is important! Your body needs it, your brain needs it, and your sanity needs it as well! Though its good to do well on all VCE assessments, at the end of the day, a SAC or exam is not worth losing sleep over. And you shouldn’t be feeling anxious or stressed all the time. If you are feeling like this, I suggest talking to your teachers to see how they can help you feel more prepared. Because if you plan well enough, you will do exceptionally well without missing a single night’s sleep.
All this may seem like common sense, but sometimes seeing these things written down in words, by someone who has experienced everything you are experiencing right now, is the only way you’ll truly take this advice into considering.
Once again, good luck with your studies! And stick to your bedtimes!
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