10 Tips to Ace Your Next Exam

Shanghai international school

Exams are coming up. This means you should be revising and making other preparations if you haven’t been doing so already. Whether you’re studying at a public school in your native country or a Shanghai international school, here are our top 10 tips to help you with acing every upcoming exam.

In the run-up to the exam

Things you can be doing now to ensure the moment of truth goes to plan.

#1 Eat brain foods and stay hydrated

Eat brain foods and stay hydrated


Did you know that certain foods power your brain better than others? When revising, and in the days before the exam, stay far away from junk food since fatty and greasy food does nothing good for your brain or body.

Instead, try to stick to some of these foods, which are proven to be beneficial for studying.

  • Oily fish — Salmon, sardines, and mackerel are some of the healthiest types of fish. These are packed full of protein and omega 3, which are essential to maintaining brain health.
  • Eggs — Another protein-filled choice.
  • Dark leafy greens — Could be spinach, kale, broccoli, and others. Lutein, a pigment (coloring) naturally found in these veggies, has been found to improve and preserve cognitive function. They also have high iron content.
  • Peanut butter — Peanut butter is a tasty way to get plenty of protein. Choose the healthier, no-added-sugar kind if you can find it.
  • Green tea — Green tea contains L-theanine, which is an amino acid. It can help to improve brain function.
  • Fresh fruit — Different fruits have different benefits, but all are good snacks during revision time. Read more about the best fruits to eat during exam time here.

It’s also essential to stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is always important, but being hydrated will keep your brain operating at its fullest potential when it comes around to exam time.

#2 Make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep

Getting enough good sleep is so important for the health of your brain. Particularly in the short term, being well-rested has immense benefits to your cognitive ability. With exam time around the corner, getting a good night’s sleep is more important than ever — with enough rest, studying is easier, and you’re able to retain the information better.

#3 Make a revision timetable

Make a revision timetable

Be sure to stick to it too. A revision timetable should be a thorough plan of exactly what you’re going to do each day in the run-up to your exams. Mark down the day of each exam and include any other responsibilities you have too (although you should be cutting down on these during revision time).

You might want to dedicate more time to certain subjects, for example, if you’re struggling in a particular subject but confident in another. You might want to draw out your timetable using a ruler and pencil, or you can design one using this website, which can be printed out.

#4 Practice with past papers

Practice with past papers

What better way to get prepared for an exam than to do an exam? Completing past exam papers gets you used to the format and means you understand what to expect on the big day. Sometimes, exam questions might even be similar to ones that have come up in previous years.

When doing a past paper, treat it like the real thing — set a timer for the time that the actual exam will be, and don’t give yourself any breaks. With enough past papers under your belt, when it comes time for the real thing, it’ll be no big deal.

#5 Use visual aids

visual aids

Most learners learn better with visual aids. Transform your notes into flowcharts and mindmaps—this way of displaying information sticks in your mind better than blocks of text. Read more about how best to create visual aids and their benefits here.

#6 Take regular breaks while revising

Take regular breaks while revising

You might think that spending hours upon hours studying is the best approach. Actually, most people’s brains can only effectively take in information for up to 45 minutes. If you spend longer than this in one period, your study-time becomes less valuable. Every 30 minutes or so, it’s a good idea to take a 5-minute break.

The day of the exam

Tips for when the big day has arrived — what to do right before and during the exam itself

#7 Go to bed early

This tip is actually for the night before the exam. As we’ve already mentioned, getting enough sleep is important to good brain health. This is even more critical the night before an exam — nobody can answer an exam to the best of their ability when they’re half-asleep.

The easiest way to make sure you’re able to do this is to go to bed a bit earlier than usual. Head to bed 30 minutes earlier than the time you usually do — this gives you a little more time to fall asleep since pre-exam nerves might make it harder than normal.

#8 Read the question

You probably get tired of hearing your teacher say this. They do so for good reason though. The number one exam mistake students make is not reading carefully and/or not giving themselves enough time to comprehend precisely what is being asked.

Read, read, and read again. Reading the question three times usually ensures that you’re properly absorbing the question and understand exactly what you need to do.

#9 Do the easy questions first and manage your time

With most exams, no rule says you need to complete the questions in the order they’re written. Do the questions you know you can answer well first, so at least you’re guaranteed marks on those.

Wear a watch during your exam so you can easily keep track of time. Before the exam, using past papers or advice from your teachers, decide how much time you should spend on each question. Don’t forget to give yourself extra time to proofread and check your answers.

#10 Eat a banana

This one might sound silly, but take it seriously — studies have shown that eating a banana before an exam helps students to get higher grades on their papers. Bananas contain vitamin B6, which promotes serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine production, which all help to support concentration.

Good luck

When it comes to exams, the most important thing is to do your best. Nobody can ask any more than that.




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