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Exam Tips 2013

Posted by Eamonn Brady on

Exam Tips


With Junior and Leaving Cert starting soon, this week I give some tips on how to perform to your full potential.


Avoid marathon study sessions


Breaking your study day into sections will help as it is harder to concentrate for long periods without a break. A study plan will help achieve this. It is important to allow time for sleep, exercise and fun. 


Reducing anxiety


Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day reduces stress and ensures your mind is sharp and works to its full potential. Having a regular sleep pattern can increase exam performance by up to 30%. Although it can be tempting to study the night before an exam, this may only increase your anxiety levels. Try to relax the night before exams by doing something you enjoy like reading a book or going for a swim. If it causes you too much anxiety not to study the night before, it is best just to review what you have studied already rather than starting into new topics.


Familiarise yourself in advance with each exam paper before each exam. This will help prevent any nasty surprises while in the exam hall. Before each exam, do out a quick plan of how long you need to spend at each question based on how many marks each question is worth. It may sound obvious, but always read the instructions on each exam paper and know what you are being asked for.


Food for thought


When studying and facing into exams, energy levels are important. Oatmeal it releases energy slowly. Therefore porridge is an ideal start to your day as you are less likely to get hungry before lunch and you should not have an energy lull. Coffee stimulates the mind and makes us more productive at work and study. Limiting your coffee intake to two cups per day can be very beneficial for our energy levels. Drinking more than two cups of coffee per day is counter-productive as you end up getting withdrawal symptoms, one of which include fatigue. The same is true when you drink too much tea.




Many students experience fatigue or a dip in energy after lunch. High-protein lunches appear to produce greater alertness and more focused attention, whereas lunches that are high in fat tend to lead to greater fatigue, sleepiness and distraction. Chicken, tuna, lean beef and eggs are examples of lunch options that are high in protein and low in fat.





They are rich in Vitamin B6, potassium, vitamin C and Fibre. They are an ideal healthy snack if you have a sugar craving while studying as they taste great and contain plenty of carbohydrates, the body’s main source of energy. Chocolate, sweets and other high sugar snacks cause an energy crash within a couple of hours and the sudden “sugar crash” causes tiredness. Other fruits such as grapes, apples and watermelon are also fat free energising snacks which are full of nutrients.





Staying hydrated is important to ensure all our nutrients are absorbed properly. Water also means we can release heat by sweating. Dehydration causes fatigue. In a climate like Ireland, we should aim to drink about 6 to 8 glasses of water per day (approx 1.2 litres) to stop us getting dehydrated.



B vitamins


Our body uses a variety of enzymes to break down food and convert it to energy and it needs B vitamins for this process. Example of good sources of B vitamins include bananas, lentils, potatoes, beans, brewers yeast, egg yoke and yogurt. The B vitamins have many other roles in the body including ensuring a healthy central system and immune system, promoting metabolism and ensuring cell growth. There is no substitute for healthy eating, however, if you feel you need a pick me up in the run up to and during your exams, Whelehan’s Traditional Tonic contains iron and B vitamins and can give you the energy boost you may need.



Fish Oils


There is evidence that omega 3 fatty acids are an effective stress buster. Studies report they can significantly improve mood. Research has shown a link between the amount of a fish people in different countries eat and the level of depression. In Japan, where people eat on average 70kg of fish a year, the rate of depression is 0.12%. Whereas in New Zealand, where people eat only 18kg of fish a year, the rate of depression is almost 50 times higher. It is thought that omega 3 stimulates serotonin in the brain which can boost your mood. DHA has been shown in research to aid memory and concentration. Omega 3 fatty acids are primarily found in oily fish such as salmon, fresh tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines and pilchards. Everyone should eat two portions of fish per week, one of them oily.



Only 10% of Irish people eat enough “brain boosting” fish


According to a report in the Irish Times in April 2012, an IPSOS/MRBI survey found 89% of Irish people do not eat enough salmon, fresh tuna, sardines or trout to ensure that they receive the required dose of Omega 3.



Which fish oil to choose?


For people who do not eat sufficient fish oils, Especially those doing exams, I recommend a fish oil supplement called MorEPA® as it contains the highest level of pure omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) of any fish oil supplement on the market. PlusEPA® is a potent omega 3 supplement specifically designed to ease symptoms of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety and many use it as a natural stress buster during exam times.


By Eamonn Brady (Pharmacist)


For comprehensive and free health advice and information call in to Whelehans Pharmacy or log on or dial 04493 34591. Find us on Facebook.



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