It’s difficult to not let the pressure of an exam affect a student’s performance. There are lots of ways to relieve study-stress and boost performance, if you know what to do. Here are 11 tips for students of any age to reduce stress management before a huge exam:

  1. Do not study anything new the day before the test. Students can lightly review old material throughout the day, but not for long periods of time. Research shows that studying brand new material the day before an exam hurts you because it crowds your short term memory with last minute information that can interfere with long term memory retrial or bias your decision-making skills. You’ve learned everything you can at this point. Review what you know. No late night cramming!
  2. Listen to relaxing music. Music can act as a powerful stress management tool in our lives. Listen to relaxing music in the evening, before you wind down for bed, each night for a week leading up to the exam. Your mind and body need the rest the days leading up to the exam, not just the night before.
  3. Say goodbye to your cell phone. It’s important to get a good night sleep before the exam. According to the National Sleep Foundation, students should turn off all devices an hour prior to bedtime. A good practice is to put your cell phone on “Do not disturb”, tuck it away and practice mindful meditation ½ hour before bedtime.
  4. Get an early start. Show up to the test center early, allowing yourself plenty of time to calmly enter. Once inside, identify the locations of the nearest bathrooms and exits. You may have to wait on line so be sure to take money, snacks and a light study guide with you.Only peruse content that you’ve already learned. Do not try to learn anything new as you’re walking into the exam
  5. Don’t test on an empty stomach! Be sure to eat a full breakfast before the exam and bring snacks with you. Even if you normally skip breakfast or avoid eating if you are nervous, it’s important to eat on test day. You need to keep your mental focus on the exam, not on your hunger. If you can’t stomach having food, try a protein shake or smoothie. Brain-boosting foods that are rich in protein can lead to greater mental alertness. Healthy food choices on exam day include: eggs, nuts, yogurt and cottage cheese. Other “brain” food choices include: fish, walnuts, blueberries, sunflower seeds, flax seeds and dried fruit.
  6. Pack a lucky charm. Bring a small favorite item to give you a boost of good luck. A lucky penny, a rabbit’s foot, a bracelet or even a favorite pencil can go a long way to boosting your confidence and bringing that extra luck you may need on test day.
  7. A letter from mom and dad can go a long way. For parents of test-takers, now is a great time to write your kids a letter reminding them of how far they have come and how proud you are of them. Remind them that this is just a test no matter the outcome and that you love them and think the world of them. Let them read the letter the night before the test to calm them down. Students should also write themselves a letter, perhaps a simple journal entry to express their emotions the night before the big exam. The student is embracing a huge milestone in their lives and they have put the hard work in. A little self-love and self-reflection before an exam yields positive energy and positive results.
  8. Take the day off. Consider taking the day off from school or normal work activities before an important exam. It can go a long way to relieving stress. If the weather is nice go for a stroll, play tennis, walk your dog and just enjoy your surroundings. Use the fresh air to clear your head. Lightly review your subject matter and get a good night sleep.
  9. Take a bathroom break. No matter what, be sure to use the bathroom just before test time. Nerves can actually make you want to go to the bathroom so be sure to make a stop even if you don’t have to go badly. On test day avoid large cups of caffeine, energy drinks, sweet sodas or juices – your body will produce enough adrenaline on the big day to keep you wide awake.
  10. Stay loose. Wear loose, comfortable clothing on test day. Pack a light jacket or extra layers in case the room gets cold. You don’t want to worry about the temperature while you are taking the exam.
  11. Don’t forget to breathe. Keep in mind that this is only a test and you need to breathe. No matter the outcome, you have studied hard and you will succeed. There are some great breathing techniques that take only a few minutes. There are also some stress management apps like Calm and Pacifica that can help. Between sections remind yourself to take a deep breath and stretch out. Don’t forget who you are and how hard you’ve worked up to this point.