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The Ultimate Exam Survival Guide

September 9, 2021

The Ultimate Exam Survival Guide

Exams will naturally push you outside your comfort zone and test your preparation. But there is a lot that you can do to plan ahead. Cultivate creative thinking and resourcefulness in all that you do. You will need to use the tools that are available to you on the day, whether they are literal or figurative, and be adaptable to whatever the situation demands. Samuel Taylor Coleridge famously wrote that "he who is best prepared can best serve in his moment of inspiration." These words apply to countless scenarios, from surviving out in the wilderness to acing a challenging proctored exam or standardized test. So where should you start? Follow the steps in our ultimate exam survival guide so you can pack your bag with intention, prepare yourself for the unexpected and arm yourself with the tools for success. 

Survival Skills 

Exams can be stressful, but they do not have to be. You can work on having a confident and calm survival mindset by focusing on mindfulness training and trying to reframe academic stress as a motivating factor instead of a limiting one. Here are a number of additional survival skills that can help you improve your grades and have a more positive experience: 

  • Prioritization: whenever you encounter a particularly challenging question, consider skipping it and coming back later 
  • Focus: try not to get overwhelmed by everything you have to do and instead focus on individual, manageable tasks 
  • Timeliness: having all of the answers is great, but you also need to be mindful of pacing and move through the exam with a consistent, focused timeline in mind 

Tools and Supplies 

Having the essential supplies and supports you need will make all the difference on the day of your exam. Here is a list of tools that will no doubt come in handy: 

  • Pen or pencil and paper: even with electronic exams, it helps to have something you can write with to jot down notes
  • Reusable water bottle: whether you are stuck in the wilderness or buckling down for an intensive exam, your water bottle can be a complete lifesaver
  • Proper identification: exam proctoring services often require you to verify your identity before writing the exam, which demonstrates the security and validity of the process
  • Noise-cancelling headphones: many testing centres, such as ATS, will provide you with noise reduction tools for added concentration, but it never hurts to plan ahead and confirm the supplies that you may or may not be provided with
  • Lip balm: it helps to prioritize your comfort and wellbeing during an exam, so lip balm should definitely be on your packing list
  • Medication: depending on your needs, make sure that you bring any important medications with you just to be on the safe side
  • Snacks: depending on how long your exam is, you may have time for a quick snack beforehand, or even a break if you are doing a longer and more comprehensive exam

Putting Your Best Foot Forward 

Planning ahead can not only improve your test scores but also reduce any stress or anxiety associated with taking an exam. For additional resources and tips, we recommend checking out our blog featuring a list of productivity apps to help you succeed and also heading over to our YouTube playlist with tons of useful study tips to help you succeed.

Written by CJ McGillivray