Exams Student-made

How to survive exams – a practical guide

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Exams are, unfortunately, just around the corner. This is a particularly difficult time for me because I am a bit of a perfectionist, so during the revision period all I want to focus on are past papers, and not the mundane stuff like eating, or doing laundry. This guide is focused on dealing with the practicalities of daily life during exams, based on my own experiences.

Day-to-day life

Before the exams, I try to take some time off from revision because revising all the time is just not sustainable. However, I often feel too stressed out to just sit down and relax. So what happens, and is actually very useful, is that I end up doing chores. For example, I plan my meals for the next week or so, go on a grocery trip, or sort out a big pile of laundry.

The key is to find the balance between that useful procrastination, and revision – to find enough time for revision, and to take good care of yourself in the process. It’s about planning in advance, but not by falling head first into anxiety by thinking too far ahead.

Image of Platt Fields park

So here is what I have figured out:

1. Meals: If you are busy with revision, it might seem tempting to just eat ready meals and instant ramen for the entirety of January. While this is a quick option, it is not the healthiest one. I usually just make bigger portions when I do cook, and then keep the leftovers in the fridge. It is especially useful if I want to spend time revising on campus and could use a hot lunch (microwaves around the campus are wonderful), or when I come home and don’t want to deal with meal preparation. You might also want to consider freezing some stuff, just in case.

2. Clothes: I try to figure out in advance what I’m going to wear in the cold exam halls that will make me feel both smart and comfortable – and then I plan my laundry schedule around that. Last year, when everything was online, and my house was comfortably warm, I went for smart clothes, to try to trick myself into getting in the exam mode.

3. Groceries: I make a big meal plan and do bigger groceries than I usually would – including snacks for revision! It helps if you can get your flatmates or friends to go with you, to make it more fun and have them help carry some things.

4. Waking up for the exams: Since some of my exams will be in the morning, I need my brain functions to be ready to go at 9am. To achieve that, I try to wake up early for at least two weeks before the exams to get my brain used to having to work in the early morning hours. It is… somewhat painful, since I am very much a night owl, but it works.

5. Exercise: I sometimes need to remind myself that exercise is necessary, so I kind of trick myself into some physical activity. For example, I might derail my usual path to the library and go for a walk before revision, or go for snacks and swing by the park.


No matter how you revise, or what your strategy is, there are some things that you might want to do to make life easier for yourself:

1. If you keep your notes on your computer or tablet, make sure you have them saved somewhere else too – in a cloud, sent to an email, or on a pendrive/hard drive. I learned this the hard way, so please, feel free to learn more from my mistake.

2. Make sure you have all the notes and textbooks you need. Check the reading lists again, check which books you can get in an online format, and which ones you would need to get from the library. If there is none available – check with your friends.

Image of a desk

Exam stuff

1. Make a list: Make sure you know everything there is to know about your exams. Make sure you know the format, the start time, the duration, and the submission procedure. Make sure you know how to handle any issues, like emergencies, or internet failure – who to contact, and how to apply for mitigating circumstances. Keep a note of all the useful information in one place. If your exams are in person; make sure you know the location, and how to get there.

2. Keep an eye out for emails: You will be receiving quite a lot of them before the exams, so make sure you read and understand them (and ask if you have any doubts!).

3. Make sure you have all the necessary resources (stationery, and such) at least a week before the exams: So for example, if you will be writing by hand, make sure you have enough working pens, or if you need a calculator, make sure it is not running out of battery. If you are doing an exam on your laptop, make sure everything – like a charger, or a mouse – is working, and that any relevant software will not ask for updates just before the exam.

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