Sunday 30 April 2017

Nerd Church - 14 Totally Awesome Exam-Taking Tips They Don't Tell You At School!

(Warning: this post contains jerky-moving/not-smooth-moving gifs which may affect people with high photosensitivity.)

My nerdlets! For many of you it's exam time! Let me help you!

It may shock you to learn this, but once I was a wee exam-taking nerdlet. And I used to beat the sh** out of exams 😎

...but they also used to stress me out. Which is NOT. GOOD. You won't do as well if you stress, trust me.

exam hall

Then there's the things no-one talks about... the things that teachers don't seem to think are worth mentioning.

Maybe it's because they can't remember their exam-days, or their exams went really smoothly, who knows?

Whatever the case, your teachers don't tell you these things. But I will.

1. Prepare your stuff the night before.

I don't mean your notes - they'll either be in your head by this point, or they won't.

Pack your bag. Figure out what clothes you need to wear. Figure out what time you need to be where.

Take about a million pens because you'll feel 100% better knowing you won't run out of ink.

2. Put your phone on silent and/or off, and/or take the battery out.

Leave it in your bag when you drop it off wherever you're supposed to do so.

Don't have it on or near you. Just don't.

Teachers will tell you to give it to the exam supervisor/invigilator/whoever is in charge. As a responsible adult I have to concur.

If, however, you'd asked teen-Cee, she would tell you about the time the stupid invigilator woman faffed off with her mobile after the exam on a day where most of the school wasn't actually there because of snow.

It then took teen-Cee over an hour of wandering around cold buildings looking for this woman to get it back, while the members of staff who were still there looked at her funny.

3. Cisgender girls and other menstruating folks: be aware of your periods.

I know, I know, it's not something people like to talk about.

But if you are within two weeks of your period, I'd recommend taking sanitary products in your bag.

If you're within a week of your period, I'd recommend actually using a sanitary towel while you're taking the exam.

Why am I telling you this? Because stress and times of high emotion play hell with your hormones, and can affect your cycle.

Believe me, there's nothing quite like sitting in an exam and knowing you've just come on, but not being able to leave until the end of the exam.

(If it can happen in an exam, then you can pretty much guarantee it's happened to me - and it did. During a Welsh exam.)

4. Expect the unexpected... and try not to let it bother you.

Random sh** can and does happen in exams. Tell yourself that, and then tell yourself that it won't matter - you can handle it.

You got that? YOU. CAN. HANDLE. IT.

Because no-one will've warned you of the potential for this stuff happening - because they won't know.

I had a lot of my exams in a narrow gym room which was off the main gym and sports hall. It was lit by weird fluorescent lights with no windows and made your eyes go funny.

It also had gym ropes. The gym ropes are where my story comes in.

So I'm sat there, doing my A-level English exam, and the gym ropes are tied up above my desk.

After a while a spider lands on my desk - I'm not fond of spiders but it's running away from me and off the desk, so *shrugs* whatever.

After a few minutes more, another spider lands on my desk. At one point a spider also decides to lower itself on a web right in front of my face...

About four or five spiders in total landed at random intervals on my desk.

Life-threatening? No. Distracting? Hell yes!

5. Accept that exam halls have other people in them.

This is related to #4, in that you really can't do much about the random sh** that goes on during exams. This is a little more predictable though - so I can warn you a bit more!

  • There will always be someone who has hay-fever, or a nervous cough, or a cold, taking the exam with you. If there isn't, then that person is probably you.

  • There will always be someone who likes to drum on the desk with either pens or fingers; again, if there isn't, then this is probably you.

  • There may also be noises from the corridors outside (or, in my case, the staff-room next door.)

  • Or there will be the delightful people who like to kick off their shoes, and stink the place up with their sweaty feet. (Or are really bad at kicking off their shoes and end up kicking one right into the back of your leg - yes, this has happened to me!)

  • Someone may even break down in tears, or have a nosebleed, or have to ask to leave to throw up. It happens.

Unfortunately, you have to ignore all of it. You can glare at them, briefly, if it makes you feel better, but then you have to get back to it.

It'll disturb you a lot less if you accept that it's going to happen, and just work around it.

6. Wear temperature-appropriate clothes.

There's nothing worse than being either uncomfortably hot or uncomfortably cold in the middle of an exam.

Dress in layers (unless you live in an uber-hot place and know that it's going to stay hot) that you know you can quickly put on or take off, depending on how hot/cold you are.

It may seem like a little thing - but dude, if you don't get it right, it's gonna bug you.

Oh, and if you're in the middle of winter and there's a hole in the windowsill that's letting the weather in, make sure someone in the exam hall covers it with a textbook or something (again, actually happened to me.)

7. Do the 'easy' ones first.

Do the questions you know you can do first guys - you'll kick yourself if you bomb on the hard questions and don't have time to do the ones you actually know.

Go for the low-hanging fruit - it's better to do three questions worth 1 mark, and get them all right, than to get nothing for one question worth 3 marks.

8. Check the back page.

Don't get caught out - make sure you're aware of how many pages and how many questions are on your paper.

Always flip the paper over to make sure there's not an extra question. Trust me. You'd be surprised how often there is.

If you're lucky, your exam board will write 'end of questions' or something similar at the end of the test, but if not, then you've gotta have your wits about you.

9. Sometimes BS-ing comes in handy.

I wish this wasn't the case. But it's true. Even if you're spinning utter cr*p, don't be afraid to b*llsh** your way through it.

A confident answer may make all the difference if it's something that's on the border-lines of your knowledge.

Such is the way of the world *shrugs*. But as you're my nerdlets, I know you will use your b*llsh**ting powers for good, not evil. Right?

10. For essay questions, always start your answer with a re-phrasing of the question.

This tells whoever is reading your paper that you understand the question (even if you didn't, see #9,) and might even make them act more positively towards you.

But how to do this without being too obvious? Lemme help with that too (oh, and never write 'lemme' on an exam paper, guys, it won't end well.)


Q: How did Charles I's attitudes towards kingship shape the way he interacted with parliament?

A: The relationship between Charles I and parliament was shaped by many factors, including his attitudes towards kingship...

Q: Was Prospero a good father to Miranda in Shakespeare's The Tempest? Discuss.

A: Whether Prospero can be said to have been a good father to Miranda in Shakespeare's The Tempest is a matter of your perspective on several elements of their relationship...

Q: Should the law be moral?

A: Whether the law should be moral is a question that is up for debate...

(And in no way is it apparent that I did Law, History, and English. Lol.)

See? I can shamelessly say that I rocked essay questions, guys. 😎


The first thing you do is put your name and details on the paper. The last thing you do before you hand it in is check that your name and details are there and correct.

You can't get a good grade if they can't find your paper!

12. Take care of yourself.

Eat a good meal. Get a good sleep.

Sleep-deprived folks with low blood-sugar aren't going to get good grades.

So don't bother with the all-night cramming session. You'll just stress yourself out. Go to bed. When the morning comes you'll either be stressed and rested or stressed and unrested - which do you think will work out better?

13. Chill.

You're doing this for YOU guys. YOU are the one that matters.

Your teachers can go to hell. Any family or friends worth you time will still love you no matter the outcome.

Chill out before you burn out (I know. I never took my own advice. But I should have.)

14. Put it all in perspective.

I wish, truly and honestly, that you will get all the good grades you want and need.

But if you don't? Much as it may feel like it, it's not the end of the world.

I know it's easy for me to say, years after my last exam, but honestly, if the worse thing that ever happens to you is a couple of bad grades, then you will've lived the kind of charmed life that I hope you lead.

That's not to say you can't be upset. Be upset. Let yourself feel what you're feeling.

Then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and trust that life will go on - you'll get through this.

If you're in a really bad place though guys, please don't hesitate to get help. Go to friends, family, or a doctor.

If you need to, use helplines such as those listed here. In the UK, you can use the Samaritans service to get stuff off your chest.


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  1. THANK YOU FOR THIS! I don't have exams for another month, but I will definitely revisit this post when the time comes. Last year, o was the person with terrible allergies during the exam and I wish I had brought tissues with me. Let's just say, my nose was a dripping mess and I had to awkwardly cover it up with my hand. Note to self: expect the unexpected.

    1. You're welcome! I'm glad you found it useful!

      It's so weird that no-one tells people a lot of this stuff - it's all about revision etc. and I'm like 'Yeah... BUT THERE WERE SPIDERS LANDING ON MY DESK!' Lol.

      Definitely expect the unexpected! You can handle it Em *hugs*

  2. This is such a great post for those about to face their exams. Totally real, approachable, and as far from patronising (I'm a grown up so I'm definitely right and you should listen to me) as can be!! Love it #RV&HT

    1. Thanks! :) I have a lot of teenage and college/university-age followers, so I figured I'd let them know a few secrets ;)

  3. Great idea for a post! I used to be active on Quora and someone once asked for advice because they were nervous or so upset about an exam grade or school grade of some sort, and I responded much like you did in #14. Someone else commented all like, "This is a stupid answer because of course it's not the end of the world," and I was just like, no, but in the middle of stressful situations, we sometimes forget that because it seems that way.

    But OH MY GOODNESS SPIDERS WERE FALLING ON YOU????! I don't care what would've happened to my grade, I would've gotten up and asked to sit somewhere else. You are braver than I.

    Also, I'm cracking up so much at the vampire gif lol.

    1. Ugh people can be... ugh!

      Ha, I think the shock of a spider attack kept me quiet! Plus, I knew that the amount of fuss required to ask to move just wasn't worth it - who was gonna believe the spider attack thing, for a start?!

      I know, right. I don't even know where it's from, but I was like - yes! I love it!

  4. Oh god, spiders! These are great practical advice tips! I've got 2 exams at the end of the month, I'm really hoping for no spiders x

    Jenny (Accidental Hipster Mum)

    1. Good luck with your exams!!!! (And I wish you 0 spiders!) :)

  5. Great tips! Sleep is so important to do well on a test. I always tried to get to bed by midnight before a test. And eventually I learned to sit in the front of the room for tests so I couldn't hear the hallway noises.

    1. Thanks! Unfortunately my sitting position was always pre-determined by the invigilators. I like to think they didn't know about the spiders!

  6. I like how we both had posts about exams, but with slightly different takes on them. Mine was mostly focused on the taking care of yourself aspect, which I think a lot of people seem to forget is so important for your performance! I was on my period during exams which is not the most fun ever, but seeing that tip made me remember I'm not the only one who has those struggles. (I WOULD HAVE FREAKED OUT IF SPIDERS LANDED ON MY DESK.)

    1. I'll have to check out your post! And yeah, it's uber-important to take care of yourself!

      I don't recommend spiders. I really don't!


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