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A Checklist for Successful Exams

Liezl Hesketh in Students 

prep for exams

It’s that time of year again when the sun is brighter and the Jacarandas are in full bloom. All these signs point to the start of year-end exams. Instead of enjoying fun times in the sun, students will be hunched over piles of books in darkened rooms, stressing about the days and weeks ahead. To help you make the process as successful and painless as possible, here is our stress-free exam guide:


Weeks before the exam

  • Don’t procrastinate!
  • Draw up a study timetable that includes the number of papers and subjects you have to study for, as well as the dates of each.
  • You may need more time for some subjects than others, which must also be factored into your plan.
  •  Organise your study space. A cluttered workspace will clutter your mind. Clear away all distractions and sort out issues like adequate lightening, a comfortable chair and access to study aids like notebooks, pens and markers
  • Start to care for yourself now and maintain this regimen throughout the exam period. Avoid junk food and rather choose brain-boosting foods like fish, nuts, seeds, yogurt and blueberries that have been proven to aid concentration and memory. Drink enough water because a hydration is essential for your brain to work at its best. Make time for some moderate daily exercise and make a point of getting your 8-hours’ sleep a night.

 See also: #StudentsSA-motivational quotes


One week before the exam

  • With more than enough time to prepare, there is no reason to cram. Instead, study for 20 to 50-minute increments at a time and give yourself 5-10 minutes breaks in between sessions to boost long-term retention.
  • If there is any work that you don’t understand or need more information about, contact your lecturer or tutor now to get clarity. You can even gather friends for a study session – just as long as you stay focused on the topic for an agreed amount of time and don’t use the time to goof off.
  • Use old exam papers. These will give you an indication of the type of questions you can expect in your paper. You will also get an understanding of the relationship between course content and the number and type of questions per topic.

See also:#StudentSA: How to apply what you learn


One day before the exam

  • Clarify and list the simple things like start times, the address of the exam venue and route to get there, stationery, student card and ID.
  •  Fill your car with fuel or make sure you have organised transport.
  • Sleep! It’s tempting to study through the night but avoid it at all costs. Instead, go to bed at a reasonable time and sleep restfully knowing that you are prepared for the next day’s exam.


Exam day

  •  Set your alarm and a backup alarm so that you have more than enough time to get ready and to the venue.
  • Eat a healthy snack before you go and make sure you are dressed comfortably and in layers so that you can regulate your temperature during the exam session.
  • Leave home a few minutes earlier than usual. The last thing you want is being stuck in traffic or missing the bus or taxi.
  •  Make yourself comfortable. At the venue, a visit to the loo is recommended before you settle into your seat and prepare your desk.
  •  Take a deep breath, stay calm, read the questions properly and answer as best you can. Good luck!


All the best with the exams! If you are planning on furthering your studies, now is the perfect time to start looking for accommodation. TheRoomLink has a wide range of student accommodation available and if you register on our site we’ll deliver possible matches to your inbox!