The Source Study Hall Exam Guide

The SQA exam timetable begins next week! Across Scotland, students just like you are nervously preparing to write essays, problem-solve, draw and act their way to an impressive set of results.

Some students will be cramming last minute, a few will be praying to the exam gods for As and Bs, and others will be hiding under their duvets pretending none of this is happening (we don’t advise the last one, it’s definitely happening.)

It’s time to trust in everything you’ve written: to trust in everything you’ve studied, highlighted and committed to memory so that you can prepare for sitting the exams themselves.

We’ve put together some top exam hall tips to make sure you’re completely zen when you finally take a seat at that dreaded desk. You can do it!


Get A Good Night’s Shut-Eye

Before an exam, getting a good night’s rest is easier said than done; your brain is full to bursting with information and your nerves are making you question how much you really know.

However, even the act of getting to bed early and lying in a darkened room the night before a big exam is beneficial for your body and mind.

No screen time, no distractions. Make sure you’re lying in bed and allowing yourself to unwind as much as possible. For more tips, hit up our study sleep guide.


Eat A Good Breakfast

Yep, you’ve heard it before – breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s even more important when your brain needs to be alert, sharp and able to recall all your exam facts at 9am.

Plus, who wants a grumbling stomach doing backflips in a silent exam hall?

There’s never been a better reason for your ma, da or siblings to cook you eggs in the morning. Choline, a B vitamin found in eggs, boosts brain function and memory (hello Shakespearean verses and Spanish subjunctive conjugations). Eggs are also high in protein, which helps keep your blood sugar stabilised. Eggs will keep your inner workings balanced throughout a busy and stressful morning.

Hate eggs? Vegan? Why not top porridge with blueberries and bananas? Oats are great for you – they contain iron, potassium, zinc and B vitamins that will all boost your brain development and function. Steer away from ready-made ‘just add milk’ porridge packets, as these can be packed with nasty sugars. The bananas and superfood blueberries add fantastic extra vitamins to give that tired brain a boost.


Step Away From The Caffeine

Energy drinks are fizzing with all kinds of nasty toxins like caffeine and sugar – stuff that’s all OK in moderation, but not wise to consume before you head into the exam hall.

Drinking too much caffeine can put you on edge, making you jittery and more anxious. It also affects your concentration, which will have a detrimental effect on your exam performance if you’re struggling to remember everything you’ve learned and complete your essays in time.

Stick to some water, fruit juice or (if you’re extra prepared) a nice smoothie full of fruit and oats as your drink of choice before the exam.


Prep your pens

Some exams ask you to write in pen, others pencil. Make sure you have a selection of both before you enter the exam hall so you’re ready for anything.

Sharpen your pencils and test all your pens the night before. Bring extras just incase the ink runs out – you don’t want to be caught short and panicking in the middle of your essay on the origins of the First World War.


Be Punctual

The last thing you want to do is show up late and be disqualified from the exam you’ve studied so hard to pass.

Give yourself plenty of time to get up, shower, have breakfast and get yourself to school.

Having some ‘down time’ before entering the exam hall, checking you have everything you need, is good for your focus.


Register for MySQA

You can receive your results by text and email by signing up to My SQA, to save your parents steaming over the envelope when it arrives in the post.

Why not sign up before the exam season starts? One less thing you have to worry about as time goes on.

Make Sure You Fully Understand The Question

Don’t dive in to your essay writing or problem solving before taking a good five minutes to make sure you really understand the question.

It sounds silly, but sometimes key words jump out at you from the question and your panicked mind jumps to conclusions.

Read and re-read the question before beginning and make sure that, if there’s an option of two or three essay questions to answer, you are picking the right one for your knowledge.

Once you’ve properly read and understood the question, the inspiration will pour out of you.


Try Not To Get Distracted

Mid-exam is when minds begin to wander, but you have to try your best to keep this in check.

The invigilator’s footsteps and your best friend’s frantic writing at the next table might catch your attention, but do your best to stay focussed.

This is your chance to prove yourself, to achieve the result that you deserve. Don’t let your attention span let you down – it’s 50 minutes of your life that will set you up for a better future.


“Nothing can distract me!”

Don’t Over-Analyse What Your Classmates Say

The post-exam analysis can be worrying. Some people boast that they aced it, while the rest say they really struggled.

Others might have interpreted a question differently, got a different result from you in a problem-solving question or remembered a different quote. Bottom line though? It doesn’t matter.

Don’t focus on what others did, or compare it to your own exam experience. Your hard work will be reflected in your results, not in the comparisons to your classmates.


Be Confident

Hold your head high! You’ve done the work, you’ve put in the hours. You deserve this.

A positive mental attitude will bolster your performance, make you feel better in yourself and allow you to concentrate. If you maintain that negative little voice in your head, you are more likely to be distracted.

You’ve got this.


Looking for more tips on exams? Visit the SQA Website.

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