Yay or Nay: Importance of Pre-Exam Routines

IB Exams: Just days away. A fact which feels overwhelmingly nauseating if you think about for too long. At Lanterna, when we speak to DP2 students, the most common question I get is “How can I best prepare for exams?” While we emphasize the importance of actually studying, we also stress the importance of an Exam Routine.

What is a Pre-Exam Routine?

By exam day routine, we mean actually figuring out what helps you focus and how you are going to approach exams. While you have little control over what happens in the examination room, you can establish and control what happens around exams with precision.

For me, there was something extremely comforting knowing I had routine approaching May exams based on what I learned during Mock Exams. Specifically, I tried to establish an Exam Routine with regards to the following: eating, sleeping, and exercise. For example, trying to reflect over simple things; should I drink coffee before an exam? If you have an afternoon exam, should you study in the morning before or try to relax? When you come home from a full day of examinations, should you try study immediately, or take a few hours off to take a nap/eat/go for a walk before you sit down to study?

Some of my personal Pre-Exam Routines are:

  • Say YES to Sleep:
    While it is beyond tempting to spend all night cramming before an exam, I noticed I performed significantly worse if I didn’t sleep well the night before. Thus, I always aimed for at least 7.5 hours of sleep prior to an exam. Sleep will make you feel refreshed and ready to go. If you don’t believe me, believe the science. A 2008 study by Associate Professor of Psychology Pamela Thacher concluded that all-nighters actually impair reasoning and memory for as long as FOUR days. As a result, you might not be messing up one exam, but several. Consensus: SLEEP FRIENDS, SLEEP.


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  • Need a nap? Take one!
    One of my most important discoveries during Mock Exams was how tired I actually felt after I had taken an exam. I realized I needed a nap each afternoon when I got home to be able to recharge between my exams. As I’m sure you know your IB exam schedule is intense – with at least one exam, sometimes even two per day. If I had concentrated for 2 exams, I needed to come home and take a 1.5-hour nap before I could concentrate and get any studying done in the evening. Thus, while it may feel like a waste time, do consider taking a nap in the afternoons when you get home.
  • Coffee? The survival juice of IB exams.
    While I am a lover of caffeine, it may be worth trying to track your consumption prior to exams. I.e. I always felt like if I had lots of coffee before exams, I’d feel extra jittery and could barely concentrate on the examination. Why? Probably because my body had naturally produced extra adrenaline during exams, and thus I didn’t need as much coffee as usual. Thus, consider limiting your caffeine intake before exams to reasonable quantities.

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  • Breakfast? ALWAYS.
    I love a good breakfast. Make sure you have a proper breakfast consisting of protein and carbs. This will ensure that you have enough energy to complete the entire Exam!

If you are looking for more help on how to approach exam day and prioritize your mental health, click here to get a summary of my favourite ones. Otherwise, remember that Lanterna is always to help if you are finding a section particularly difficult as you can talk it over with someone through getting your own tutor!

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