Harvard students rub the foot of the John Harvard statue for good luck, Columbia students scream out of their windows at midnight on the Sunday before finals week, and Yale students streak through the library to let off stress. But let's face it they’re Ivy League students, these exam rituals aren’t what ensures their exam success. To maximise your own exam performance an effective pre-exam routine is essential, as it can make or break all the hard work you’ve (hopefully) put in.

Bill Cole, a ‘mental game coach’ emphasises the importance of a pre-exam routine to set you up for success:

“Your pre-exam routine is very much a ritual. You need to have a series of steps in the routine that you do each time before a test. Over time, this ritual begins to feel comfortable, normal and will work for you. It's a security blanket for your confidence.”[1]

So if you want to take on every exam with minimal stress and maximum confidence, work these rituals into your pre-exam routine.


Not just for hippies and Zen-masters, meditation will help to alleviate stress and anxiety and improve your focus. Mastering meditation will also be helpful to allow you to control your nerves during the exam as well. It may like a sacrifice when you want to use your morning to memorise every last piece of information before your exam, but even just taking 10 minutes out of your morning to meditate will make a huge difference. If you’re a meditation newbie use an app such as ‘Headspace’, which offers guided meditation in session as quick as 10 minutes, and targeted specifically to improve creativity, happiness and focus.

Eat Smart

As tempting as stress eating can be, ditch the junk food for brain food on the day of your exam. Eat a nutritious breakfast before your exam with a balance of protein, carbs and fats and full of brain boosting foods, such as bananas, walnuts, avocado and blueberries– a green smoothie is a perfect choice – and have this in the morning before every exam.  

Get Moving

Exercise helps to alleviate stress, get your endorphins going, shake off your nerves and boost your energy, all things we desperately need during exam period. Something as simple as going for a 20-minute walk on the day of your exam will be effective, with research showing that exercising improves memory and brainpower[2]. Exercising before studying also helps memory retention[3], so bonus points if you’ve been working out in the run up to exams.

Get Pumped Up

Listen to music that makes you feel like a boss and pumps you up – we all have a guilty pleasure gym pump-up song, apply it to exams as well. To maximise the benefit of this on your exam routine, listen to the same song or playlists each time. This is different to music for productivity, studies suggest rather than classical music used for study, the best choices for are bass-heavy tunes, examples of which include Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’ or DJ Snake & Lil Jon’s ‘Turn Down for What’[4].

Brain Hack Your Way To Success

Work some brain hacks into your pre-examine routine to set you up for success. One such tip is to chew gum, as improves brainpower to “turn the brain on…and gets more blood flowing to the head” [5]. So chew some gum whilst going over your study notes, and if you’re allowed chew some in the exam hall as well as this will help you to recall the information you studied[6].  

    By starting up a pre-exam routine and including the above rituals, you’ll give yourself a psychological boost, reduce stress and helpfully improve your overall exam performance.  









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