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I have been preparing for a very important exam for 2.5-3 years. And now I am completely exhausted, the exam was scheduled to happen in May, but due to COVID-19 it got delayed to September end. This delay and uncertainty did break my motivation a bit but I still kept on pushing, and now I'm completely exhausted. I don't have the strength to go and take the exam. I have prepared well for the exam, and have been putting about 7-8 hours each day with very little breaks in between, so acing this exam does mean a lot to me and my future also depends on it. But I just don't feel like taking the exam. Even my preparation has been suffering due to this for a week or two.

The exam is just 14 days away, so I don't want to take a break as this time is very crucial to revise the material, but obviously I'm unable to focus on it, which is worsening the situation and acting like a negative feedback loop.

It's like in the saying "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe", now I have worked hard to actually get a sharp axe, but no energy to actually use it. Please help me, what can I do to get out of this situation.

With the amount of effort I have already put in preparing for the exam, and with my future depending on it, I really don't want to mess this one up.

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    "my future also depends on it" - does it, though? If you fail, can you take it again? If yes, then, sure, failing would be a setback, but it wouldn't cost you your future. So that sort of shift in perspective can be helpful. "I don't want to take a break" - you're not going to achieve anything substantial in 15 days that you didn't in those 3 years. You can just run through the material to trigger some recollection and reestablish a sense of the big picture. If I were you, I would take a break; just forget about the exam for something like 3-5 days and relax. – Filip Milovanović Sep 13 at 12:57
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    Writing the exam does not require much energy or motivation, I suspect it is only a days worth of work at most. What energy are you searching for? Are you searching for energy/motivation to study for 14 days straight? If so, that isn't reflected in the question. If you're looking for energy to write the exam you already have it. Rest, sleep, relax, study a bit if you like. Write the exam when the time comes. – Behacad Sep 13 at 20:10
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    JEE is indeed a scary exam – Buraian Sep 13 at 21:23
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    @scaahu but the question has been worded in a general sense and does not ask anything specific to a particular exam. So I think what the actual exam is should not matter, the question should be judged as presented. – GoodDeeds Sep 14 at 9:48
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    I want this question to be closed as upvoting this question is like re-affirmation of the belief that JEE is that important of an exam. It is really not. It just gives you a better opportunities but it's not the end of the world even if you don't do so great. – Buraian Sep 14 at 10:34

14 Answers 14

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Take a two week vacation. Do things you enjoy. Relax. Exercise. Watch TV. Sleep.

The gain from any studying you can do in two weeks will be minimal, compared to the previous three years. The gain from going into the exam rested, relaxed, and with energy will be immense.

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    To clarify, are you recommending the OP not even think about the exam until the start time? While I certainly agree with some "vacation" I wonder whether it might not be beneficial to spend some of a day or 2 in advance reviewing to get back into "exam mode." (And maybe this depends on the type/format of the exam. I can imagine a brief review period being useful for a timed, written technical exam.) – Kimball Sep 13 at 20:12
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    In this particular case I think a complete break is essential. Any studying would expand and lead to panic. The OP is much, much more likely to fail from stress, panic, and lack of rest than from lack of another day or two of studying. – Patricia Shanahan Sep 13 at 22:43
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    I completely agree with taking a vacation, but two weeks is likely too long. Take a vacation for one week, maybe even 1.5 weeks, but not two. – Allure Sep 14 at 2:25
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    This only works if the op is the type of person that can turn off their brain and enjoy the time off. It's not going to be good if instead every day the op just loses their mind with worry and guilt about not studying. – eps Sep 14 at 19:46
  • I've applied the relax technique and to me entering in exam mode like 30 mins before the exam, is already more than enough to mentally review a whole semester at least for engineering fields. It's about well mastering the concepts mostly. I'd say it can differ for a field which exam (alas) rely on off by-heart knowledge and sometimes short term memory such as medicine. Here I'd imagine at least a few minutes a day could help keeping the memory fresh, but I'm not really sure either. – Arthur Hv Sep 15 at 4:00
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  1. Sleep. Sleep as much as you can. Then sleep some more. Nothing you could possibly do to prepare further will help you even a tenth as much as getting lots of sleep in the last few days before the test.
  2. On top of that, give yourself some time to relax and do things you like. Again, being relaxed and in a good mood will help you more than further repetition of things you've already memorized.
  3. Do regular physical exercise. Many studies show benefits of physical exercise for mental alertness. It will probably also help you relax and sleep.
  4. Create a high-level list of all the things you've learned in preparation. Mentally go through all of them and see where you feel least confident, then specifically repeat those. Your weakest areas are most likely to benefit from the limited time you have remaining.
  5. Prepare to cheat, but don't. No, seriously. Write a cheat sheet, one sheet of paper that contains exactly those difficult things you think you might want to look up during the test. Go through it a few times over the coming days and revise it if necessary. Then throw it away the day before the test. You'll almost certainly remember all of it.
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    "Cheat" sheet is a good idea, as is sleeping. I would ramp up preparations again in the second week, though. Normally, it is a good idea to have a month's break and then reactivate the preparations for a few weeks, but the OP does not have time for that. – Captain Emacs Sep 14 at 8:25
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    +1 for "Cheat sheet". I found my most effective exam preparation was done away from the books with my cheat sheet in my pocket. It was then that I figured out exactly what I didn't know and still had the time to remedy it before the exam. – Pam Sep 14 at 10:47
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    Too much sleep can make you lethargic – user32882 Sep 14 at 11:51
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    This is a great list. I would add getting some exercise to it. – Jeff Sep 14 at 14:10
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    @Jeff: very good point, I've added that. – Michael Borgwardt Sep 14 at 15:04
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What you experience is totally normal.

Take a break for one day, calm down, meditate.

This will help you much more than trying to sit at your desk every day.

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    But the paper is just a fortnight away!! I just need the energy till thrn – Manish Mittal Sep 13 at 11:36
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    You really sound like you need rest. Try to regain mental strength. This will help you more than rereading another chapter. – J Fabian Meier Sep 13 at 12:45
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    @ManishMittal, it may seem contradictory, but sometimes rest can be more effective than working, especially if you are close to burnout. Consider the analogy of an athlete: a runner doesn't run a marathon every day in the weeks before a big race. – DavidH Sep 13 at 18:16
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    In fact, athletes deliberately reduce their training gradually to nothing in the days/weeks leading up to big races. Tapering isn't counterintuitive at all if one considers it as DavidH said. – Nij Sep 14 at 0:04
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    @Nij The tapering down is correct for physical effort. For mental effort it is slightly different. As I said earlier, it would have been better for OP to take about a month or so off and than ramp up (not down) over the period of a few weeks, but there is no time for that. A week's break and reactivating himself during the second week should be reasonable compromise. – Captain Emacs Sep 14 at 8:27
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There are two components to succeeding on any exam. The first, obviously, is command of the material - you need to know what you're doing in order to do it. The second is emotional preparation. Intense stress or exhaustion can severely compromise your ability to recall important information or to attend to important details when you're taking the exam. It sounds like you've done good work preparing yourself in the first way - you've studied extensively, and you've reached a place where you perform reasonably well on practice exams (as you said in a comment). Now, it's time to attend to the second component. Thinking about your "axe" analogy: you've sharpened your axe. But if you're too sleepy when the time comes to see where you're chopping, all the strength in the world won't do you any good.

So take this time to rest and relax. Don't think of it as slacking off: think of it as preparing for your exam. Attending to your personal well-being is just as important to success on that exam as studying is.

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I don't have the strength to go and take the exam.

This is called pre-event nerves. This phenomenon happens all the time. I personally have given lectures that I fully prepared for and yet at the last minute got cold-feet. I forced myself to go ahead and did the talks and they were fine. When people are planning to get married, massive doubts can surface in the two weeks before the wedding.

I was once so scared of an exam that I overslept through tiredness and arrived late. Unfortunately because of the lateness I failed. Luckily it wasn't a 3 year effort.


When we have a very important event coming up imminently, fear surfaces.

Unconsciously we find any excuse to allay the fear - the most obvious excuses are "I'm not ready", "I feel unwell", and "I feel exhausted". Some people will even have a car accident because their unconscious mind is so determined to avoid the fearful event.

The key is to accept that you have prepared as much as you possibly can. You will get a result and it will be good, bad, or indifferent. Life will continue afterwards in any case. Famous people have been known to have failed at college and still make good.

Your fear will try to keep you awake worrying. It will give you brain fog. It will throw your biological clock out of kilter. It will make you unable to concentrate on revision.

See it for what it is and trust in fate and your preparation - pray if you are religious (not to pass but for peace of mind and courage). Most importantly, use relaxation/meditation tapes (available on Youtube) to give your brain a rest from time to time and to get to sleep if necessary.


Afterthought: Use the technique of athletes. Spend time each day visualising success. Imagine yourself walking into the exam room, seeing the ideal questions you want and completing them easily. Your brain will become attuned to a successful frame of mind and your unconscious mind will stop nagging you.



EDIT on comment by @benjaminaaron_m

On reflection, I think benjaminaaron_m is right. I heard a live interview with an athlete once, saying that they always visualized winning and that there was no point in visualising anything else. However in the case of an exam, I agree that it is probably better to imagine being able to answer some questions immediately and others after a little bit of consideration. Also visualize yourself having a confident and calm attitude.

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    Very nice suggestion... that visualization technique. – displayName Sep 14 at 3:19
  • I would like to quibble with the visualisation technique a little bit. Doing it, as written above, with imagining that you get the ideal questions will help with pre-event nerves, but if the exam doesn't play out that way, you may start to panic on the spot. So I propose not to imagine particular questions, instead visualise that you'll just do fine throughout the exam, knowing some answers right after you are done with reading the question, but also being able to figure out those answers which you don't instantaneously know. – benjaminaaron_m Sep 17 at 0:43
  • Of course, you should be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, so technically you should know which questions you would like to get. I’m just saying I would not do this kind of visualisation with imagining that I get exactly them. – benjaminaaron_m Sep 17 at 0:43
  • @chasly-reinstateMonica I don't think there's a problem with visualising winning or visualising passing an exam. My quibble was about imagining that one will receive the ideal questions. As in the case of a sport, I think it would be a similarly bad idea to do the visualisation for example like this: "I throw the jab, he slips, and I throw the straight punch and it knocks him out". Instead, you should imagine in my opinion that you are just the better fighter throughout the fight, you are coolheaded, etc. So my problem was not with imagining success, it was with imagining too specific things. – benjaminaaron_m Sep 18 at 12:40
  • @benjaminaaron_m - Yes, I agree that the visualization needs to be be tailored to be both positive and realistic, and that this will differ according to the activity. – chasly - supports Monica Sep 18 at 13:03
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When I was prepping for the prelim, the last week before the exam I was just memorizing equations. It's annoying that memorizing actually helped, and the exam should have been better-written so that problem solving was better tested. Still, under a time constraint you don't want to derive everything from first principles.

Anyways it was (for me) a low brain energy consumption activity that made me feel productive. And bonus: one equation I memorized was actually the final answer to a problem (that test really needs to be improved) so I could derive it backwards really quickly. Maybe you can find something similar that is low-key and rests your mind so you're fresh for the test but also makes you feel productive.

If you're too tired for even the most tedious study activity, then I recommend taking 24 hours completely off. Don't do chores either, just rest. Play a relaxing video game, read a fun book, spend the day in bed binging netflix, go for a hike, out to a bar with your friends, whatever you find energizing and not draining. The time you lose for studying you'll hopefully make up by being fresh for the last stretch of studying and ready to perform on the test. Sometimes you have to sink down and push off the bottom of the pool to get back up to the surface.

Monitor your own energy levels to see how much time off (if any) you need and adjust accordingly. If you think the time off will just make you more guilty, then go with a low-energy but still productive studying method until you're able to recover. If you're an extrovert, try studying in a group. Even if it's not as efficient for you, the group may make you feel less drained and more motivated.

Best of luck!!

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I have prepared for competitive exams myself and like you I too spent more than 3 years to give a 3 hour long exam. After preparing for a single thing for such a long time, you get past the 10,000 hours of the 10,000 hours rule.

The key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours. 1


You are quite likely to crack anything that comes at you, at this point.

From your perspective, you may not have the energy left to use your axe. However, from the perspective of the external world, you have trained and strengthened yourself for so long that your average shot will be better than the best shot of an average person. Quite the same way that an injured Usain Bolt can run faster than a fit Manish Mittal.

After such a long preparation, it will be difficult for you to screw this up. The ability to answer the questions is ingrained in your reflexes now, for next few months.


I'd suggest you to stop focusing on things beyond your control and start focusing on things within your reach. This implies focusing on revising the fundamentals and revisiting your strengths.

Attach yourself with the effort and detach yourself from the results. That means ensuring that you are putting in your best effort and after the effort has been put in, disconnect.

Don't take mentally taxing tasks if you don't feel like it. Just go and give your best shot in the exam. That's the best that you can do. And most likely, it will be good enough.


1 Let's not over-discuss this and take it at the face value for now.

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    Agree with the general idea here, but do not fully agree with "After such a long preparation, I don't think you even have a chance to screw this up.". I know people who unexpectedly underperformed quite a bit due to stress, so minimizing that is important. The rest of the answer is good. – GoodDeeds Sep 13 at 21:31
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    @GoodDeeds: I wanted to add that caveat, but I trusted that the readers will get what I’m trying to say. – displayName Sep 13 at 21:33
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    @GoodDeeds: BTW, I appreciate you reaching out so far down the post to read this answer. Typically people don’t. – displayName Sep 13 at 22:32
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Do not be upset or confused by this. You've already done a lot! Take a look at what you've already achieved, at all the knowledge you've got. Isn't that great?

I do believe that if one has the strength and motivation to prepare for 3 years, that person will pass any exam.

Take a day off (two is better). Relax, clear your head, get good sleep, and go back to study all the weak spots (if you have any).

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    Please try to keep posts focused on the aim - here, answering a question about pre-assessment energy management. Links should be included only when relevant, and in no cases purely for the purposes of contacting you or advertising yourself. – Nij Sep 14 at 6:12
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From the context it seems OP is going to give JEE Advance. I've been through this phase and had made it through. The following answer isn't limited to the scope of this exam and is also true for all other relevant examinations.

Feeling this way is completely natural especially when you've worked for it for so long, we start seeing things in absolutes- either it's a success or it's a failure. This sort of thinking isn't exactly correct but as a student who has been at your position, no amount of arguments against it would have changed my mind at that time. I would rather urge you to focus on what is in your control and that's temperament. Temperament is what can make or break your 6 hour examination.

Answers above have already gone through important things you can do and I just want to point out that as a student who has been at your position, it works. Practice meditation and mindfulness and stay calm. Competitive examinations are more than knowing the most, it's about not losing your mind amidst immense pressure, so take a step back, relax, do things that you enjoy.

There's always some concept that is yet to be mastered, but what you couldn't do in three years, how would you in two weeks? :) All the best, you'll do great!

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Remember your main reason and main purpose of why you are taking that exam. Do not over stress yourself, give time to yourself, do the things that makes you happy, and remember you have already come this far, and you have already overcome a lot of hardships and challenges, so I know you can do it, do your best and good luck.

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I know what you are talking about friend. Yes the pressure is really immense. I am gonna give this exam with you this year. And the only thing that I learned about this exam in my 2.5 yrs of preparation is that there is no need to fret or get stressed about it. The grades I used to get by giving the exam with a cool mind were really nice. The thing is let yourself cool a bit. Don't get distracted but try focusing on simpler things and basic concepts. Go out and feel the breeze on your face and breathe deeply.

All the best Bhai!!

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  • How do you know which exam it is? – user111388 Sep 15 at 11:00
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Two weeks is plenty of time to recover your physical well-being. Fixing that will prevent the "worst case" scenario of an incomplete test. You have already prepared for the best-case scenario of a perfect score with two years of study, there is nothing more to do there.

Step one, is to set a fixed time at night for going to bed, and time for waking up in the morning. Set fixed times for meals, and make sure the calories are not too low or too high. Ask your family to help you support these times for your exam preparation. Use your favorite type of regular exercise too, it is good for the brain. Instead of more studying, which is causing you anxiety, read your favorite fiction. If you really don't like fiction, catch up on movies you have missed while studying so much.

Take a practice exam one week before the exam. This should give you an idea if your recovery is on track. If you feel that the health strategy is working, keep doing it for the last week!

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I guess it has been mentioned enough that this is due to stress and probably also anxiety for the test. So its essential to find a strategy to cope. The two weeks will pass and you will do a good job if, and only if you go to the test without feeling totally burned out. I would feel you are not the person to just go on holiday and forget about it. Same here, so what I do in such situations:

Divide the work you have left (revise Topics, learn stuff by heart) into packages: Try to balance the packages that each package takes about the same time (and max 5hours) and assign a package per day you have left. On that day do the package. If you are finished and feel exhausted: reward yourself: Read a nice book, go for a movie, meet friends or just watch stupid TV shows. If after you are done with the package you still have energy: start with the package for the next day. But also reward yourself once you are done!

With the packages you also have the possibility to stop studying earlier the next day if you already did parts of your task for the next day. So if you do no feel well and feel you cannot study you can stop and then just assign the remaining parts to the next day. This way you get everything done and you make yourself feel good if a package is completed. Overall you will have good and bad days, so ultimately you shoudl get everything done even if you have a few bad days where you are not able to study a lot.

That is at least what got me through many exams without losing my mind.

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  1. Sleep for enough time. Dream about the long term goal in life.
  2. Wake up early.
  3. Have day dream about the long term goal in life.
  4. Stay healthy.
  5. Revise, practice, revise and practice again.
  6. Keep focus on the exam and only the exam and nothing else for the next 2 weeks.

As confirmed, an outstanding amount of effort was already put into the preparation for the exam.

The fact that 7 hours a day was invested for the past 3 years is a direct proof of how valuable the exam result is.

The covid situation is a common problem that is affecting everyone preparing for the exam, and also everyone in the world right now.


Shifting the attention away from the ongoing covid problem and dreaming about the long term goals and wonderful events that will happen after clearing the exam will definitely give the strength and encouragement to go for it!

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