How to prepare for your in-person exams

Be exam ready with our checklist
Find out everything you need to know for in-person exams, including how to prepare, what materials to bring and the rules you need to abide by.

Semester 1 exams begin on Monday 3 June. Whether you've sat an in-person exam recently or will sit one for the first time this semester, we're here to share tips, advice and rules to follow to ensure your success.

What to do before exam day

The preparation you do before an exam is just as important as what you do on exam day. Give yourself the best chance for a stress-free start to your upcoming in-person exam with the following tips.

Student studying in the University of Sydney Quadrangle cloisters.

Factoring sleep, meals and breaks into your exam study schedule will help you maintain balance and avoid burnout.

Exam preparation checklist


Check your exam timetable and develop a study schedule with your wellbeing in mind, factoring in sleep, meals, breaks, exercise and leisure. A great study routine involves balance, so make sure you reward your study with plenty of breaks.


Prepare early and aim to start your exam revision at least two weeks prior to sitting your first exam.


Try to revise in an active way. For example, make a list of key points, test your memory as you go along, and try to devise questions and answers about the information you are learning. Check out more study tips and exam strategies on our website.


For written exams, complete practice exams under timed conditions with a pencil and paper. While knowledge retention is important, it’s equally important to ensure you can complete your exam under the same conditions you’ll experience in the exam room.


Get your calculator approved. If you're allowed to bring a non-programmable calculator into your exam, you'll need to have it approved first. For information about where this can be done and which models you can bring, check the calculator approvals page.

Students studying at the University of Sydney.

There are plenty of quiet zones and study spaces on campus, like Fisher Library.

What to do on exam day

On exam day, ensure you’ve had a good night’s sleep and have eaten something. Do not try to learn any new exam content on the day. 

It's important to get to campus well before your exam start time. You will be allowed to enter the exam room 15 minutes before the start of the exam.

Arriving early ensures you have plenty of time to find your exam room, confirm your seat number and get out the materials you need to complete your exam.

Details of extra materials you’re allowed in the exam, such as an approved textbook or calculator, will be listed in your end of semester exam timetable and your Canvas exam or test site.

As well as the materials permitted by the examiner, you may also bring the following items into the exam room.

  • Photo identification. The following photo identification will be accepted: your University student card, passport (Australian or international), an Australian driver’s licence and an Australian photo card (both digital and physical ID cards are acceptable). Expired identification will not be accepted
  • Your student card
  • Stationery, such as pens, pencils and an eraser
  • Small items of food, such as sweets or mints
  • A bottle of water in a clear container.

When you enter the exam room, you will be asked to leave your bag in the designated bag area. The following items must be left in the designated bag area or placed under your seat.

  • A bag
  • Purse or wallet
  • Mobile phone, switched off
  • Watch
  • Earplugs or earphones
  • Pencil case
  • Hat.

As well as maintaining academic integrity while preparing for and sitting your exam, there are certain rules you need to follow during an in-person exam.

  • You are not permitted to bring a recording or scanning device or implement into the exam room
  • You cannot leave the room in the first 30 minutes of your exam (including reading time) or during the last 10 minutes
  • You cannot leave the exam room with any confidential information or materials, including the exam paper, answer book, graph paper, drawing paper or any other materials
  • If you need to use the toilet, quietly notify the supervisor by raising your hand. You should not take any of your belongings to the toilet
  • Be respectful of your peers and remain quiet before, after and during the exam.

Examinations can be stressful, even if you’re feeling well prepared. Here are some techniques to help you manage stress and anxiety during an in-person exam.

  • If you’re feeling anxious, put down your materials and breathe slowly through your nose for 30 seconds
  • Stretch your arms and legs at frequent intervals to relieve tension. If your hands are sore or begin to cramp up, take 30 seconds to stretch out your hands and rotate your wrists
  • Read the exam questions slowly and thoroughly
  • Take a 15–30 second break when you finish each section. Use this time to sit back in your chair and give your hands, arms and legs a stretch.

Find some time to relax and unwind after your exam, whether that's by grabbing a meal with friends or going on a walk.

What to do after your exam

Congratulations on completing your exam! 🥳

After the exam, ensure you recharge with food and rest well. If you meet with friends afterwards who also completed the exam, agree that you’ll only talk about the exam for five minutes – leave all anxieties and stress about the exam in the past.

Need extra support?

From on-demand mental health and wellbeing support provided by Sonder and TalkCampus, to academic support from the Learning Hub and the Library, you're never far from help if you need it.

For a list of legitimate resources and support services, read our article on how to access free and legitimate academic help at the University of Sydney.

Check out the Library’s Exam Ready program for spaces, events and activities to help you prepare and de-stress before exams.

Last updated 15 May 2024.

18 May 2023

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