Get your head down!

Getting enough sleep in the run-up to exams is just as critical as revision. James Righetti explains why

The last thing students need to face when going into an exam is a feeling of lethargy and tiredness due to lack of sleep. Sleep is a vital factor students often overlook when preparing for exams, but getting a good night’s sleep will ensure pupils are able to maximise their performance in the final days of revision and on exam day itself.

The night before an exam is crucial. We’ve all come across students who think ‘cramming’ until the early hours of the morning is the way to go – it is not! In fact, doing this causes stress levels to rise and can disrupt thought patterns, reducing the learner’s ability to recall long-term memories.

Students should put as much effort into preparing for the night before as they do for the actual exam. Research by Elevate Education shows that the pupils who do significantly better in exams actually revise less than students who don’t do so well. Here are some tips pupils should take into account for the night before:

Learners should try and stay as calm and relaxed as possible. This will play a part in ensuring they get some decent sleep.

Students should be encouraged to spend time mentally preparing for what they want to achieve the next day during the exam. This can be done by doing some ‘light’ work such as jotting down a few essay plans from practice papers.

Almost all students in Elevate Education’s research cited the importance of getting an early night’s sleep. A full eight hours will ensure students wake up feeling fresh and energised.
However, on the night before an important exam, some students may go to bed and struggle to sleep, or wake up during the night worrying they’ve overslept. The best solution is to set a back up alarm (or even two!) for peace of mind.
Another major stumbling block for students is their attention span during revision. Removing as many distractions as possible will help – other useful tips that can be passed onto students include:

Sitting at a desk
Working when you’re lying down tells the brain it’s time to sleep – sit up!

Turning off mobile phones
Even when a mobile is on silent you’ll want to check it. But if it’s off and in another room, it is ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

Memorising when you are most focused
Before school, after dinner or late at night when everyone has gone to bed are usually the best times. 

Getting active
Research has shown we are able to concentrate best after a burst of exercise. Students should try doing star-jumps for 20 seconds before memorising notes.
Sticking to a study schedule will also help learners get used to a daily routine. But, as we know, each day is different. Students who feel tired and low on energy should try shortening their study schedule. On the other hand, those who have lots of energy and feel particularly motivated on a given day should try and do as much revision as possible – while their minds are receptive and engaged.
At the end of the day, controlled stress is good because it motivates us, but worry is unhelpful because it is focusing on the outcome instead of the process. Concentrate on the process of revision, and you’ll find that the results will take care of themselves.

James Righetti is the UK managing director of skills study providers Elevate Education W:


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