You’ve been diligently revising for weeks.
You’ve completed past papers, have post-it notes everywhere, and even have flash cards to help you remember important points.
But now with just 24 hours left until your assessment, what can you do to improve your chances of success?
And what last-minute actions will have a damaging impact on how your assessment goes?
Keep calm and carry on
The first thing to do is not to panic. Stick at what you’ve already revised and make sure you know that really well.
If you’ve not left it all to the last minute, then you have the luxury of being able to plan your last day with plenty of downtime.
Lucy Parsons is an academic coach and Cambridge graduate who writes and advises those taking school and university assessments.
“For you, the night before should be all about rest and relaxation. You might want to cast your eye gently over your revision notes or get someone to test you for one last time. However, hard-core brain work should not be your emphasis”.
She adds that you should make sure you eat properly, that you take exercise, relax and get an early night.
“Being relaxed and well-rested with your blood heartily circulating around your body is the healthiest way to prepare. It will mean that in the morning your mind is sharp, read to dredge up everything you’ve revised and nimble enough to make the most of what you know even if you can’t give the perfect answer to the question in front of you”.
Squashing the tomato
By now, you’ve probably got your revision technique nailed. If not, then perhaps it’s time to consider the tomato. The pomodoro technique is a time management method developed by Italian Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s.
It’s named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer cirillo used – pomodoro being the Italian for tomato. It basically boils down to setting your timer for a set period – usually 25 minutes – then working on a task until the timer goes off. You then take a short – three to five minute break – and make a mark on a piece of paper.
Then, reset the timer and do another 25 minutes plus break and make the mark. When you’ve accumulated four marks, take a longer break – 15-30 minutes – and then start the process again.
The combination of visualising and tracking is what makes the technique work – and it also teaches useful time management for when you take your assessment.
A long way to go?
Planning a revision timetable (and keeping to it) is great. But perhaps life has got in the way and you’re behind with your revision.
Now there’s 24 hours to go and you’re panicking. There’s no point in obsessing about what might have been. If you’ve left it to the last minute – or suddenly realise there’s a serious gap in your revision – what can you do now?
Realistically, you aren’t going to be able to learn every single subject in depth. So instead, concentrate on the main themes, which are likely to turn up – past papers are helpful, as is advice from your online tutor and peers.
In addition, there’s nothing to be gained from trying to cram in too much without a break. You won’t retain things unless you take regular breaks – and you’ll just exhaust yourself before the exam. But you can do concentrated revision now – and retain the knowledge.
Get rid of distractions: this means not being waylaid by your phone or the internet. Consider turning both off. When you revise, try reading your information out loud, recommends Parsons: just reading silently won’t help you learn.
Always get a good night’s sleep: there’s nothing more likely to hamper your success than being tired when you take your assessment.
There are things you can do first thing in the day. Have a proper breakfast (certainly not just coffee). Make sure you leave in time for the assessment.
Have a look over any key pointer notes you have made – but don’t do too much. Don’t text others doing the assessment, the last thing you need is to panic each other.
And good luck: stay calm and focused and you’ll ace it.
Charlotte Beugge spent more than 20 years as the deputy personal finance editor on The Daily Telegraph and then The Daily Mail. A freelancer since 2010, her work has appeared in national newspapers, magazines and websites.