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Exam Countdown: Making the most of the Last 24 Hours

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I’d be lying if I said that I’ve never crammed the night before or on the day of an exam. Sometimes you get lucky and end up with glowing (but completely undeserved) final marks.

Regardless of what the outcome is, cramming sucks and leaves you feeling highly-strung and over-caffeinated the entire time. If that sounds like you, maybe it's time to try something different to your usual eleventh hour panic…


In the 24 hours before an exam you really shouldn’t be taking in a lot of new information, just becoming more familiar with what you already know.

If it's an open book exam, spend the day using your notes to do some practice questions and set aside some time to re-read your notes and highlight some important sections. If you're doing a closed book exam, spend the day quizzing yourself with flash cards and tackle some past exam questions.

While this final study session is helpful, be sure to take some time out to relax before bed - it will help you to get to sleep sooner and help your brain to process the information you've revised during the day.

If you have some time before the exam, spend the next morning going through your flash cards or re-reading the highlighted sections of your notes.


In the lead up to an exam, avoid alcohol and caffeine. It interferes with sleeping patterns and makes it hard to concentrate.

Make sure you eat a good dinner and don’t skip breakfast. Your breakky should be putting those boring things you learned in PE about the glycaemic index into practice - start the day with food that will release energy over a long period of time. Be sure to pack some healthy snacks and a bottle of water to take with you on exam day (see ‘The Essentials’ below).


Sleep before an exam is crucial. Your mind responds quicker and better when it’s well rested so it’s worth putting down the pens and turning in early.

Make sure you’re at least getting the minimum 8 hours sleep before an exam and factor in things like how long it will take you to commute to uni in time for the exam. From personal experience, I know that it takes me longer to settle the night before an assessment so I try to hit the hay extra early.

The Essentials

If you've got the time it's a great idea to take care of some basics so that you won’t need to think about them tomorrow morning:

  1. Double check exam time and venue.

  2. Look up public transport timetable or parking options to ensure you have plenty of time to get to the exam venue and relax before the test begins.

  3. Pack your pencil case with highlighters and plenty of pens. Don’t forget pencils and an eraser if you have a computer marked multi-choice exam component.

  4. Prepare some snacks and pack a bottle of water to have before the exam. Avoid the sugar because there’s nothing worse than coming down from a sugar high in an exam.

  5. Have an outfit laid out and ready to go, and don't forget to take an extra layer in case of unpredictable exam hall temperatures.

If you suffer from pre-exam stress, I highly recommend giving this approach a try. Good luck, law nerds!

FROM THE ARCHIVES: This story was first published on Survive Law on 9 June 2010.

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