Wake up to tips for staying alert in the exam hall and the lecture room

yawning man

Improve your chances at exam time by staying wide-awake and on-the-ball with these suggestions.

Of course, everyone knows the advice about how to look after yourself while you’re revising. These include all the common sense suggestions of getting lots of sleep, exercising regularly and eating well.

However, despite the best-laid plans, you might still end up on the morning of your exam feeling bleary-eyed and groggy. Adrenaline caused by anxiety might pep you up a bit, but you really need an emergency strategy to see you through.

Here are some things you can do to help keep you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed until the invigilator calls time.

Have a good breakfast

Don’t just dive into the coffee pot. Feed yourself on low glycemic index foods such as porridge which will release their energy slowly throughout the morning. Consider having protein such as an egg to provide constant energy and avoid an energy slump.

Keep eating well

The same things apply at lunch time – low GI foods and protein. It’s also a good idea to have a supply of brain-foody snacks such as almonds and bananas.

Drink plenty of water

Drinking water regularly throughout the day will help tackle feelings of fatigue and lethargy caused by dehydration. Take a bottle of water into the exam and keep sipping.

Keep an eye on the caffeine

While a couple of cups of coffee might get you going, any more than that could work against you. Coffee later in the day may affect your sleep and too many cups will cause unpleasant jittery side effects.

Take a deep breath

If you’re tired or stressed, or both, your breathing can become shallow reducing the amount of oxygen that’s getting to your brain.

Breathe in deeply, filling your lungs right down to your belly, then exhale slowly. Do this for a few minutes while you concentrate on the sensations of your breath coming and going.

Chew gum

Apparently chewing gum can increase the blood flow to the brain. It will also help to wake up your senses which can help to increase alertness.

Sweet smell of success

Sniff on a drop of essential oils. Getting a whiff of something like peppermint or rosemary can wake up your brain. Other oils to consider taking to the exam include bergamot, grapefruit and cinnamon. A drop or two on a hankie should do the job.

The eyes have it

If your eyes feel tired, shut them for a moment or two. Or give yourself a different focus such as gazing out of a window or looking at a wall.

Make a splash

Excuse yourself and while you’re in the bathroom, splash your face with water – the colder the better.

Keep moving

OK, so you have to sit still in the exam hall, but that doesn’t stop you moving as much as possible. Flex your wrists or ankles. Clench your fists and feet, then release. Roll your shoulders, stretch your hands overhead and rotate your neck. Anything that helps the blood to keep flowing and to relax your body.

Pull the other one

Try pulling your earlobes gently downwards as this stimulates acupressure points that can help you feel more awake and alert.

Dress right

While you don’t want to be uncomfortable in an exam, wearing something as cosy as your PJs won’t do anything to wake you up. Aim for comfort but not ease. Equally, try to wear layers so you can ensure that you don’t overheat.


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