Adopt a healthy lifestyle
During the year before your exam, choose a moderate physical activity that is suitable and satisfying for you. The sport you choose should above all give you a feeling of pleasure.
Try to devote half of your free time to your sport. Avoid doing it in the evening (except walking) as it can make you feel excited and prevent you from sleeping. Instead, read a good book or watch a movie or DVD.
On the food side, know that what you eat can be the ideal (or most harmful) fuel for your brain. That’s why it’s important to know what foods are useful to your health and beneficial to your brain resources.
The ideal is a balanced diet consisting of light and frequent meals without excess, of course. Always have a good breakfast consisting of yoghurt mixed with a spoonful of cereal, tea, and a few slices of toast or wholemeal bread with honey or jam and a piece of fruit. Don’t forget that coffee with milk slows down digestion.
At lunch and in the evening, make up a plate of cooked or raw vegetables, protein or cereals. Don’t forget to treat yourself to a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack.
The meal should be a relaxing time, so try not to think about what you’ve just studied. Instead, talk about light, unimportant topics.
Finally, be a good listener and respect your body. Don’t resist if you feel tired. Don’t stay up too late. The hours of sleep are necessary for your nervous balance. If you have difficulty falling asleep, use sleeping pills as little as possible and always under a doctor’s prescription. But it is preferable to review your lifestyle, take a short break for half a day and relax by walking, for example.
Prepare for your exam at the beginning of the year
Passing your exam is your goal for this year. That’s why, from the start of the school year, you are advised to know the rules of the game. The sooner you are informed, the better prepared you will be for the test.
So, as soon as possible, find out about these various points:
- the date of the exam. Post it in large format in front of your desk. This permanent reminder will be one of the drivers of your motivation while giving meaning to your efforts and your work.
- The topics that are on the agenda and those that are not, but that may arise from it, can be asked of you at the exam.
- Preliminary tests
- The number of written and oral tests and their coefficients
- The date of the school holidays.
This will allow you to plan and organize your revisions and rest periods without surprises and without getting overwhelmed. But the important thing to remember is that regular work is the best kind of revision. So, work on a day-to-day basis, summarize your lessons on clear and precise sheets, do exercises, and above all, don’t leave out points you haven’t understood. Don’t hesitate to ask your teachers for explanations or even to ask your classmates who are more enthusiastic than you are about a particular subject.
Note that it is not necessary to know everything at your fingertips because you risk spreading yourself too thin. The secret is to know and to know it well. This is why it is useful to identify your strengths and weaknesses. By writing them down on a chart against the coefficients of the subjects concerned, you will be better able to gauge what you will have more or less to work on.
In addition to integrating your revisions into your weekly schedule, knowing your holiday dates, it will be easy to spread out and schedule your “big” revisions during each of these periods. However, make sure you have time for relaxation and recreation and don’t neglect your diet and sleep.
Schedule your studies
Even if you are afraid of stressing or being overwhelmed by the amount of work ahead, make an effort to realistically assess the difficulties and important points of the exam.
Take a piece of paper and a pencil and make an inventory of everything you will have to work on. Consider the number of course chapters and documents to be learned, textbooks to be read, time spent on research, documentation and practice exercises.
Once you have decided what to expect, try to assess your personal assimilation and concentration skills, your ability to retain or memorize, for example, calculate the number of pages you can read and retain in an hour* (test your reading speed), or the average time it takes you to do research or an exercise.
If you think you’re too slow, don’t panic! Revision is not a race against time! (As long as you start on time and plan ahead.) By being aware of your own pace, you’ll be better organized and more confident.
On the other hand, try to estimate the number of hours you spend in class and your commuting time to and from school to calculate how much time you have left to spend on your weekly work and studying. Don’t overlook your extracurricular activities and your social and family life.
Build these moments into your schedule. However, your schedule should not be set in stone. Anything can happen: an event, a binge, sudden fatigue. In these cases, give yourself the opportunity to catch your breath and take a break.
Don’t forget to periodically evaluate the intermediate objectives achieved and re-plan if necessary.
Even if you have made a clear and consistent program, it is entirely possible to readjust it… The most important thing is to be able to spread your revisions out as evenly as possible.
Respect your own rhythm!
Organize your typical revision day
The amount of time you spend on revision is personal and depends of course on your own concentration and assimilation skills. But you should know that it is by getting used to working a certain number of hours each day that you will adopt your own cruising speed.
Start with a balanced breakfast at eight o’clock in the morning. Then start working from 8:30 to 12:30. It is strongly recommended that you stop every hour for about ten minutes so as not to lose your assimilation faculties.
It is imperative to respect these breaks even if you do not get tired. However, do not extend their duration because you risk losing your concentration and you would have difficulty getting back to work.
Give yourself a two-hour break for lunch or even to relax physically (swimming, walking, tennis). Then resume the afternoon without forgetting to stop every hour again.
After dinner, program yourself some simpler tasks (re-read lessons, review diagrams etc…) as you get tired, you will be less attentive. If, on the other hand, you plan a more busy schedule, you may quickly become discouraged, anxious and consequently prepare for a bad night. That said, it is not recommended to work beyond midnight. Remember that a good night’s sleep is essential. A good night’s sleep is a guarantee of efficiency.
Revitalize your revision and practice your speaking skills
Even if you are well organized, well prepared with your review program, and working at a good pace, there will come a time when you will experience a downturn, and your schedule will weigh on you and need to be re-energized.
Working and revising alone is essential, but it is also very beneficial to work in a team. Take the opportunity of long weekends or holidays to go and study with two or three classmates (no more) of a similar level to yours.
A climate of mutual support in another context, another place with relaxing beaches, can indeed give you back some punch and motivation. Take advantage of the presence of your classmates to practice your oral skills. They know you and will be excellent examiners for you. They will certainly not give you a gift and this can only be beneficial to you.
Together you will discover the bank of subjects, which will allow you to better understand the style of questions that may be asked.
When it is your turn to be an examiner, you will be able to assess your level and point out your strengths and weaknesses by comparing yourself with your peers.
Practice with each other in the form of a game, in the evening, for example, during dinner, to choose a theme and discuss it. Without taking yourself too seriously, take care of your vocabulary and style. Argue, try to be convincing and clear, and if you happen to say something silly, it’s okay, smile, no one will blame you and carry on.
In order to perform well orally, you will need to practice public speaking as often as possible (see the “Practical Guide to Speaking” on this subject). This interlude spent with your classmates will help you get off to a good start on your “solo” revision.
Approach speaking with confidence
To give an oral exam, choose normal and usual clothing in which you feel comfortable. This will help you feel more confident.
Of course, be on time with your convocation and your identity card. When you arrive in front of the examiner, be friendly and smile without forcing the line. Look the examiner in the eye without arrogance or defiance. Try to present a good image of yourself and show that you want to succeed. Be positive.
Speak loudly, clearly and distinctly. Do not hesitate to have the examiner repeat if you have misheard or misunderstood. It is risky to answer a question you are not sure about! You could be on the wrong track and be off-topic.
Use the board and chalk, and write your name in the top left corner or possibly your reference number. Write large and legibly and write down the statement you are being dictated or the topic being asked. Frame it so that you don’t erase it by mistake. Speak while you write, so that you appear more alive. However, don’t rush, take your time and think about what you are going to say.
Banish ready-made or memorized reasoning. On the contrary, reason out loud, share your research. Also be a psychologist, try to “break through” the examiner. To do this, observe his or her reactions. If he or she looks out the window, it is a bad sign. If not, captivate him, interest him, continue your presentation and make sure you come to a clear and brief conclusion. This will show the examiner that you have gone where he or she wants you to go.
If, on the other hand, after a few minutes, you have said all or most of what you know and you feel the examiner is impatient, sit back and relax first. Take a deep breath and then calmly read the subject again. Then don’t remain silent; silence is heavy. Then, throw ideas around, try approaches, even ask questions of the examiner. This is not forbidden. If he or she decides to help you with some leads, follow them and don’t hold on to the path you’ve taken. Smile, talk, be sincere, and authentic.
(See the “Practical Guide to Speaking” on this subject).
Prepare for the written tests
As soon as you’ve been dropped off, read the whole thing through, calmly. Take about five to ten minutes. It is essential not to start immediately. Try to get an overview of the whole event.
Read your statement a second time and make a few notes on your draft or in the margin. (main ideas, key sentences, elements of solutions, references, etc.) Then, from the beginning, start with what you know, what seems easy to you. Give priority to what you know. You can then devote the remaining time to more complex points.
Make sure you also take care of your presentation. That’s what the examiner will see first. If you enjoy rereading your paper, then you can assume that the examiner will enjoy rereading your paper as well. This is a good test. It is important to air out your presentation, go to the line from time to time, make paragraphs, and leave line spacing.
Remember to take care of your handwriting. If your text is illegible, the proofreader will probably not spend hours trying to decipher it. Deletions are also to be avoided. Don’t forget to take care of your style, whatever the subject matter, and be careful with your spelling.
It is essential that you proofread your copy five or ten minutes before the end of the test. This will allow you to check your spelling, that you have not forgotten any words, made any mistakes on dates, numbers etc… All of these tips require long-term practice, so you should start practicing them at the beginning of your school year.
Get used to the idea of an exam
Fear of the exam spares no one. To overcome it, it is advisable to gradually become familiar with the idea that the test is inevitable, that it is essential to your journey, and that you will have to face it.
The most terrible behaviour is to deny the test and refuse to face it. To try to overcome this fear, do an exercise in imagination and visualize all the anxious stages of the test. Repeat this exercise regularly throughout the year. Little by little, you will become familiar with this deadline and you will be able to play down the event.
To achieve this, make an effort to imagine all the elements related to the exam. For example: the time remaining (another month, four, three, two weeks), the exam room, your classmates, your teachers, the way you will be dressed, the examiner, etc…
Concentrate on four or five images at a time and then gradually increase the number. If you feel anxious about one of the points, stop and go back.
Don’t be afraid to imagine the worst. If you anticipate the most unpleasant situations, you will avoid unpleasant surprises.
Also dare to ask yourself this question: “Why am I continuing my studies?”
Reframe your objectives, your project in order to motivate yourself. Exploit your positive anxiety and visualize that you arrive in front of the examiner with the desire to talk to him/her about everything you have learned with confidence and pride.
The day before an examination
Last-minute revisions are of little use, and it would be a shame to overload yourself with work just before the event. There is no point in revising at the last minute a course that you have not had time to work on. You won’t retain anything you haven’t assimilated. So forget about studying and make the day a relaxing one.
It pays to have an activity that keeps your mind busy. Reading, going to the movies, seeing an exhibition, playing chess, cooking, etc. These activities will help you forget for a while the anxiety associated with the exam.
Avoid seeing your classmates, you will naturally fall back into an anxiety-provoking atmosphere.
Go to bed at a normal time, neither too early nor too late.
But first, check that you haven’t forgotten anything in your school bag:
- pens, pencils, cartridges
- leaves, drafts
- rulers, square, compass, calculator
- subway tickets, money
- map to the examination room
- convocation, identity paper, student card
Don’t forget to pack your clothes. Choose an ordinary and correct outfit in which you feel comfortable.
Everything is ready. Now all you have to do is drink herbal tea and go to sleep.
On the day of your exam, get up at a reasonable time, neither too early nor too late. Do some stretching and gymnastic movements to wake you up and take a good shower.
Eat your usual breakfast. Don’t overload your stomach. However, bring some dried fruit to avoid the eleven o’clock snack in the middle of an exam (avoid chocolate bars, which are often too sweet).
Blind yourself with positive thoughts. Tell yourself that it will go well and be proud to commit yourself to this ordeal. You know that you have worked regularly throughout the year to pass this exam and you are confident.
Have the desire to do your best, but be aware that it won’t be easy. That said, know that visualizing success in advance and thinking positively can influence and program your success in your subconscious mind. All you have to do is believe in it, persuade yourself of it, and it works.