Before the exam

Before the exam

There are many things you can do before an exam to help you prepare well for your exams. 

The more you do to prepare for an exam beforehand, the better you will feel during the exam. Follow our tips in this section and let us know if you have more study tips to share.


  • Keep your notes tidy and complete. If you miss a class, get the notes from a friend or ask your teacher what you missed.
  • Organise your notes into different sections, e.g. vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, speaking, reading, listening, writing. This will make it easier to find the section you need to revise for the exam.
  • Look through your notes regularly, not just the day before the exam.
  • Use different coloured pens and highlighter pens to help you focus on the most important things you have to learn.
  • Make summaries of your notes. Include the most important things in your summaries. Write short summaries on small cards that you can carry around with you and read them on the bus or when you have some free time.
  • Make mind maps, visuals and diagrams.
  • If you don’t understand something in your notes, ask a classmate or your teacher to explain it to you.


Many students have lots of exams close together. It is useful to plan how much time you have to revise and make a revision timetable.

What’s a revision timetable?

Work out how much time you have to study each subject and complete a table or grid with the subjects you are going to study and when you are going to study them. Try to stick to your revision timetable to make sure you have enough time to do everything.

Don’t leave your revision until the last minute. Try to revise for each exam more than once to help you learn things well. Our long term memories remember more if we look at things more than once so look at your notes regularly.

Remember to take regular breaks while you study. Take a 15-minute break after every hour you study. This will help you concentrate during your study time.

Phones and other distractions

If you and your friends send each other messages every five minutes, you will find it very difficult to concentrate on what you are learning. So, switch off your phone and your favourite social network sites while you are studying! You can send messages to your friends during your breaks.


Some people like listening to music when they study and it can help them concentrate. But if music distracts you, turn it off while you study or listen to music without words. Listen to your favourite music during your breaks. Try studying with music on and without music, to see how you study better. You might find that a certain type of music helps your concentration. 

Brain food

It’s really important to eat properly while studying for exams. A healthy diet will give you lots of energy. Sugary snacks like sweets and chocolate may give you short-term energy, but it is better to eat foods that give you lots of energy over a longer period of time. Check out our list of brain foods and try to make sure your diet includes lots of these things during exam times.

Super brain foods:

  • brown bread
  • cereals
  • pasta
  • rice
  • beans, lentils and chickpeas
  • oily fish such as sardines, tuna or salmon
  • shellfish
  • red meat
  • chicken
  • cheese
  • eggs
  • fresh fruit
  • vegetables
  • salads

Eat regular, healthy snacks while you’re studying as well as three good meals a day to keep your energy levels high.


Do plenty of physical exercise while you are studying for exams. Exercise helps oxygen move around your body and your brain needs lots of oxygen to work well. Go outside for a walk and get some fresh air, go for a swim or meet your friends for a game of football.

Look after your eyes

Spend your study time in a quiet room with plenty of light. If you study better in the evenings, make sure you have a good lamp so that your eyes don’t get tired. Do exercises for your eyes. Look at something near you and blink (open and close) your eyes several times and then look at something far away. Repeat this several times.

Revise with a friend

Talking through what you have learned with a friend can help you remember things. You can also test each other and explain things to each other when one of you doesn’t understand. It can be more fun revising with a friend.

Early bird or night owl?

It’s good to know when you learn better. Some people study better in the morning (early birds) and others in the afternoon or evening (night owls). Plan your study time when you feel at your best and feel wide awake!


The best food for the brain is sleep, so you’ll need a lot of sleep during exam times. When you’re tired you will find it difficult to concentrate and learn.

So, how much sleep do you need? Well, when you’ve had the right amount of sleep you don’t feel tired, not too much and not too little. Most teenagers need between 8 and 9 hours sleep a night.

Try and get good quality sleep. So, don’t sleep with your books all over your bed or with lights, music or the computer on. For the best sleep, make sure your room is quiet, comfortable and dark.

If you stay up late studying and don’t get enough sleep, you may need a ‘power nap’ in the afternoon. A short sleep of 30 minutes may give you some energy before you start revising, but keep it short – you don’t want to spend all afternoon in bed!

Tips to help you sleep

  • Have a regular bed time. Try to go to bed at the same time every night, if possible 8 or 9 hours before you have to wake up.
  • Do plenty of exercise. Don’t do exercise just before bedtime, but regular exercise earlier in the day can help your body sleep at night.
  • Don’t drink caffeine (colas, tea or coffee) in the afternoons and evenings. Drink water, fruit juices or herbal teas.
  • Have a milky drink just before bedtime.
  • Relax before you go to bed. When you have finished studying, read a book, listen to music, watch TV or have a bath to help you relax.
  • Turn off lights, your computer, mobile and any other electrical devices in your room.
  • When you wake up, open the curtains to get lots of natural light in your room. This will help you feel more awake in the morning.

Tell us what you usually do before an exam.  Do you get nervous?  What do you do to stop feeling nervous?

Average: 3.8 (5 votes)
Personal online tutoring
EnglishScore Tutors is the British Council’s one-to-one tutoring platform for 13- to 17-year-olds.


Submitted by Orictron on Thu, 05/16/2024 - 16:15

I usually feel anxious before exams. To fight against this feeling I go to the restroom, wash my face, and go to the toilet, So I’m not distracted by the need to go during the exam. I would also recommend not to worry much about exams, as it isn’t worth feeling anxious about a bunch of questions on a piece of paper.

Submitted by paradise_2006 on Fri, 09/04/2020 - 20:25

I sometimes feel anxious before exams but that's only when I'm not perfectly sure about the subject i studied. people normally say to listen to music to calm yourself down but whenever i listen to music before a exam, songs and lyrics go all around my head distracting I normally drink some water, take a deep breath to relax my mind and wait till the test paper is given out. :P

Submitted by Butterberries on Sat, 08/17/2019 - 05:43

I always feeling nervous before my exam.But,if I have do enough preperation I know that I will be fine. :)
English courses near you