What to Do 30 Minutes Before an Exam [Pre-Test Routine]

Taking exams can be stressful. Even if you’ve studied hard, those last 30 minutes leading up to the test can be nerve-wracking. But using that time wisely can help you feel focused, confident, and ready to ace your exam.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll outline a step-by-step routine of what to do in the half hour before a big test. Follow these pre-exam tips, and you’ll walk into that test room feeling cool, calm, and collected.

Relax Your Body and Mind

The 30 minutes before an exam is not the time for last-minute cramming. Attempting to memorize facts and figures right before a test will only increase your stress levels.

Instead, use this time to calm and center yourself. Find ways to relax both your body and mind. Try simple breathing exercises, stretching, meditation, or listening to calming music. Even just closing your eyes for a few minutes can help reduce feelings of anxiety.

Quieting your thoughts is just as important as relaxing your physical body. Don’t dwell on how much you have to study or how nervous you are. Bring your focus to the present moment.

Review Your Notes Strategically

Although you don’t want to overload your brain right before an exam, carefully reviewing key points in your notes can help boost your confidence.

Be selective about what you look over. Focus on mnemonics or visual aids that summarize major concepts, formulas, dates, vocabulary words, and other crucial information. Avoid getting sucked into intensely studying full chapters of notes. Refresh the most important parts in your memory right before test time.

Jot down a short cheat sheet if allowed, noting just a few words or acronyms as memory joggers, not full sentences. Condense your notes down to the core facts. This distillation of critical information can make the knowledge more solid in your mind.

Quiz Yourself on Key Concepts

Test yourself on the key terms, facts, and concepts you highlighted while reviewing your notes. Flashcards or practice questions are excellent ways to reinforce this vital information right before exam time.

You don’t need a full practice test—just sample yourself on the core concepts and major themes. Think of a few potential short answer or multiple choice questions the instructor might ask. Confirm you can mentally respond with the right information.

If you find yourself struggling with certain concepts, briefly review your notes on those specific topics again. Assessing weak areas ensures you shore up gaps in your knowledge.

Make Sure You Have What You Need

Being prepared with the right supplies can make a huge difference in your exam performance. The last thing you want is to panic because you forgot a simple item.

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Check that you have all necessary writing implements, calculators, formulas sheets, Blue Books, Scantrons, or any other tools permitted for the test. Make sure you have extra batteries, lead, and erasers too.

Bring water, a snack, tissues, cough drops, or other items that will keep you energized and comfortable during the exam. Having all your supplies together prevents distraction and anxiety.

Arrive Early and Get Settled

Rushing into an exam can ruin your composure before you even begin. Make sure to arrive at the exam location at least 15-20 minutes early. This provides a buffer for any unexpected delays or logistics issues.

Once seated, take a few minutes to settle in. Organize your pens, pencils, calculator, notes, or other approved materials so they are easily accessible. Adjust your seat and get as comfortable as possible. Feeling physically relaxed and ready to work will set you up for success.

Scan the exam packet or booklet if it’s already been distributed. This allows you to preview the format, point values, and number or types of questions. Understanding the structure ahead of time creates confidence.

Do Some Light Exercise

A bit of light exercise right before a test can give your cognitive function a boost while also decreasing stress.

Try walking quickly around the building, gently stretching your arms or neck, clenching and releasing your fists, or doing squats or lunges. Deep breathing naturally accompanies physical movement, oxygenating your blood and brain.

Just 2-3 minutes of light cardio activity right before the exam starts can leave you feeling energized and invigorated for those tough test questions.

Drink Water and Have a Healthy Snack

Being well hydrated and avoiding hunger pangs is essential when you need to be at your mental best.

Drink some water in the half hour leading up to test time to ensure you don’t get distracted by thirst during the exam. Having a quick healthy snack like an apple with peanut butter, some carrot sticks, or a granola bar can also give you an energy boost.

Avoid sugary or heavy snacks which can make you feel sluggish. Opt for light, natural foods that will give you sustained energy without mental fog or causing bathroom breaks.

Take Some Deep Breaths

As test time nears, deliberately taking some deep breaths can instantly relax both mind and body.

Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, allowing your belly to expand as your lungs fill fully with air. Hold the breath gently for a couple seconds. Exhale slowly through your mouth, emptying your lungs completely. Repeat this 5-10 times.

Deep breathing counters the effects of cortisol and adrenaline that build up with stress. By activating your parasympathetic nervous system, you’ll feel less anxious and more in control.

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Give Yourself a Pep Talk

Right before you walk into the exam room, give yourself an encouraging little pep talk. Whisper a few positive affirmations like “I’ve got this!” or “I’m going to ace this test!”

Visualize yourself answering questions and writing confidently. Picture walking out feeling accomplished and proud after successfully completing a tough exam. Boost your spirits right before go time.

The more you practice positive self-talk, the more you’ll bolster your mood and mute that inner critic. Don’t dwell on pre-test jitters. Psych yourself up instead!

Stay Off Your Phone

In the half hour leading up to the exam, put away your phone to avoid needless distraction. Text messages, social media pings, and other notifications can disrupt your focus.

Tell your friends you are about to take a test and that you’ll get back to them afterward. The 30 minutes before an exam require single-minded concentration on the task at hand.

Phones can be powerful procrastination devices when nerves surface. Eliminate the temptation by keeping your phone in your bag on silent mode. Out of sight, out of mind.

Trust in Your Preparation

When last-minute doubts or insecurities arise, remind yourself that you have prepared for this. Recall all the hours you studied, notes you made, and practice tests you took. Have faith in your hard work.

Normal nerves are natural. Don’t let them shake your confidence in being ready for this test. Take comfort knowing you have the knowledge and skills needed to perform your best.

Shut down any negative thoughts by remembering that you know your stuff. Let go of fear, breathe deep, and trust that all your preparation will pay off!

Bonus Tips for Essay Exams

If the exam involves writing essays, use the final 30 minutes to prime your brain for composition work.

Jot down a few broad potential essay topics that could appear based on the course material. Outline 2-3 main points for each one as practice. The goal isn’t full paragraphs—just get into a writing frame of mind.

You might also quickly review any templates, graphic organizers, or guidelines provided by the instructor. This could spark ideas for how to structure your essays.

By warming up your thinking about possible essay questions, you’ll be ready to start writing with clarity as soon as the prompts are revealed.

In Summary: Stay Calm and Primed for Success

The half hour before any big exam is prime time for final mental preparation. Avoid last-minute cramming or reviewing lengthy notes. Instead, use our pre-test tips to relax, focus, and prime yourself for peak academic performance.

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Take some deep breaths, stretch, listen to chill music, visualize success, and sip some water. Review only key concepts, quiz yourself on critical info, and get your supplies together. Give yourself an encouraging pep talk and find your zen zone.

Most importantly, remind yourself that you’ve got this! Keep calming assurances in your mind as you walk confidently into that exam room. All that diligent studying has prepared you to succeed.

Now that you know the best routine for those crucial 30 minutes before test time, you can breezethrough any exam with flying colors. Stay cool under pressure and implement these proven pre-test tips. You’ve so got this!

Frequently Asked Questions About Pre-Exam Routine

How early should I arrive before an exam?

Aim to arrive 15-20 minutes before the scheduled exam time. This gives you a buffer for any unexpected issues and ensures you have time to settle in and preview the test format without feeling rushed.

Is it better to review notes or just relax right before an exam?

Relaxing is better than trying to cram content at the last minute. But a targeted review of mnemonics, formulas, or key facts can boost confidence. Just avoid lengthy note reviewing, which can increase anxiety.

What kind of exercise is best before a test?

Light cardio like walking briskly, gentle stretching, neck rolls, and deep breathing provide an energizing oxygen boost. Complex exercises or strenuous workouts can fatigue your mind.

What makes a good pre-exam snack?

Opt for a light, protein-packed snack like yogurt, nut butter, hummus and veggies, or a protein bar. Avoid heavy fatty foods or excessive sugar, which can make you feel sluggish.

How do I stop feeling so nervous before an exam?

Relaxation techniques like deep breathing, visualization of success, positive self-talk, and listening to chill music can help calm your nervous energy and enter a focused flow state.

What should I have with me for the exam?

Bring permitted writing utensils, calculators, approved notes or equation sheets, extra batteries and lead, tissues, water, cough drops, snacks, or any other allowed materials.


Use the final 30 minutes before an exam wisely. Limit any reviewing to key concepts only. Practice relaxation techniques and positive thinking to reduce stress. Arrive early, get settled, and remind yourself that you’ve prepared for success. Follow these pre-test tips, and you’ll walk into that exam with confidence and poise. Now go rock that test!


  • Adekiya Joscor

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