Goal: Provide insight on how one medical student spends the 26 hours leading up to an exam.
Preface: The following tips are specifically focused on prepping for an exam the day before. In my opinion, you are not going to learn much of any new material today. The 26 hours leading up to the exam are much less about learning material than they are about reassuring and preparing yourself emotionally and mentally by managing stress levels and boosting confidence.
Day Before the Exam:
8 AM: Rise and Shine
Okay so the truth is I definitely set my alarm for 7 or 7:30 but I either hit snooze or have just been laying in bed on my phone for the last 30 minutes- but now I’m totally ready to make myself get up. My go-to breakfast is maple brown sugar oatmeal with blueberries and it’s super quick and easy to make! After eating I’ll take my morning shower and get dressed.
9 AM: Study Time!
First things first, I do my Anki review for the exam. What comes next honestly depends on where my weak areas are. If there is not a clearly identifiable weak point for me to focus on, I read over the high yield morphology boxes in our Robbins textbook for whatever chapter we are studying. The key here is to maximize your time by focusing on what is most likely to be tested on. Looking over FirstAid is another great HY resource to cram any extra knowledge into your brain.
11 AM: Class
As much as I would love to only worry about my exam tomorrow, oftentimes I still have an OMM class. The good news is it is often related to whichever block we are in, so I’m still kind of studying.
12 PM: Break for Lunch
You are going to put in a lot of work today and will definitely feel the pressure of your exam, but it’s still important to fuel your body and let it recharge after so many hours of work. Let all of the knowledge you just stuffed in your head sit for a bit before moving on.
1 PM: Practice Questions
Our professors heavily test out of the Robbins Pathology book and there is an accompanying practice question book that is immensely helpful. Again, today is not supposed to be for learning material, it’s for reassuring yourself that you know the material and brushing up on any topics you might be missing. Doing practice questions helps me apply my knowledge and identify patterns I see when answering. Typically I’ll start seriously doing practice questions the week of an exam allowing me more time to identify my weak areas. If your professors provide practice questions, you should absolutely do them. They are the people writing your exam questions so you want to be familiar with their wording and what they are placing emphasis on. I also love Sketchy Medical for a question bank. During my first year, Gray’s Anatomy question book and Moore’s Course Point Anatomy were my go-to resources.
6:30 PM: STOP ~hammer time~
I know people who stay up all night studying for an exam, and for some of them it works great, but for others and myself, rest your brain. Around this time in the evening I eat some dinner, watch an episode of tv, talk to my parents. Literally anything not school related. Pick a stop time and from that point on your focus is relaxation.
8 PM: Stress Relief Yoga
My favorite relaxation activity is yoga. What’s great is that it is super versatile, there are power flow videos to get the blood pumping or more peaceful, gentle flows to center myself. If you are a member of AmazonPrime, Prime video has hundreds of yoga/meditation (and other exercise) classes available with your Prime membership. The night before an exam I usually opt for a slower variety of yoga that ends in a restful shavasana.
8:30 PM: Treat Yo’Self
Keeping with the relaxation theme. My pre-exam ritual always includes some self-pampering. I pick out a bath bomb from my collection, make myself a cup of herbal tea, light a candle, apply a face mask, and relax while listening to some mellow jams.
9 PM: Take the Edge Off
Before falling asleep I might watch another show or throw on a Disney movie. Pop my Melatonin and hit the hay, ready to take on exam day.
11 PM: ~Night Night~
Day of Exam:
7:30 AM: Rise and Shine pt. 2
Okay I will for real wake up at 7:30 this time. Same oatmeal breakfast, shower, and pick out my outfit. On exam day I try to wear clothes that make me feel good. For you that might mean dressing to the nines, for me it means one of my favorite pairs of leggings and comfiest oversized shirt, to each their own. The important message is we are trying to feel good on the inside and outside to mentally make us the best we can be for the exam. Also rocking my favorite hoops (refer to: https://thebombjop.com/2020/07/28/7-things-i-learned-first-year/)
8:30 AM: Last Minute Review
Time to complete the day’s Anki review and go over any small notes that I think I won’t remember.
9:55 AM: Pump Up!
Right before the exam we have to get in the mood. Use whatever instills the power of a million suns into you. Check out this awesome Chris Hemsworth video! I usually dance around to a video of my undergrad’s marching band and then hit a quick power pose. Focus and start the exam.
10 AM: Test Time
Finally all of your efforts are (hopefully) paid off and you don’t get totally wrecked by the exam. You can still center yourself during the exam. If you feel yourself dragging, stop. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, roll your neck around. The minute you spend now will help keep your mind sharp as you finish up the exam. Don’t forget to celebrate after completing your exam. You worked hard and deserve some rest and fun!