Photo: Matheus Almeida / Flickr

How to get in the zone when you’re cramming for exams

The exam process can feel pretty far removed from the practicalities of the career towards which you’re studying. Everybody knows that exams aren’t a true demonstration of what you’re capable – rather, they’re a necessary metric to check that you’ve got some of the knowledge stored in your brain and that you’re prepared to put the work in. But in fact, there are a lot of transferable skills that you can borrow from your examination experience to use in pursuit of your everyday goals.

Not least of these is the art of getting in the zone: a way of maximising your energies whilst revising ahead of a test, but also when working applying for jobs, working on a project, or pretty much any other sustained period of work.


Being in the zone simply means finding a flow of productivity. You’re in the zone when you sense your focus, your imagination, and your levels of application are all in sync, and you’re producing a quality and quantity of work that you would marvel at in tougher moments.

When you’re revising for an exam, that means that you’re making the most of every passing hour: running through your notes, making new connections between the things that you’ve learned, and meaningfully committing facts, figures, and processes to memory. It’s rewarding when it goes well, but for most people, most of the time, the process can feel worrying vague and torturous.

Everybody’s zone is different, so a big part of finding it is learning about yourself. If you find that you tend to be sleepy and have a short concentration span in the morning, don’t fight it: admit to yourself that you need to schedule your revision periods for afternoons or evenings. Use the mornings to catch up on your sleep, get some exercise, or chat with your friends and family instead.

This is the first step towards creating your personal schedule. It’s so much easier to find a good working pace when you have identifiable goals to reach, and targets of when to do so. Don’t look at a textbook as something that needs to be worked through in the next month; instead, take it a few pages at a time, and add it to your schedule. ‘Monday , 2-4pm, pages 7-21’. You’ll be ticking more stuff off as you go, which will help build your confidence as you pass those landmarks.

And it’s not just about time. Find a place where you work well, too. Some people find it impossible to stay focussed working at home alone. They find it easier in a café or library, where there are dozens of judging eyes just waiting for you to click on Facebook! Others can’t handle the bustle of a café, and may prefer a park bench or just to sit with a friend in an unused classroom. Apparently, our work performance improves when exposed to the colour green – so somewhere that looks out onto a park or woodland is ideal.

Now you’ve figured out the best time and place to get into the zone, trying working through these further tips on achieving peak productivity. Once you’ve aced those exams, you’ll find these methods will serve you well throughout your career.

Get in the zone when you're cramming

Get in the zone when you’re cramming

How do you get in the zone when you’re cramming for important exams? Give us your tips and advice in the comments below.

Featured photo: Matheus Almeida / Flickr

I’m a freelance writer and I love what I do. My background is in human resources but I enjoy writing about different topics, such as leadership, self improvement and the importance of work/life balance.

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