Skip to content

“Don’t worry, you will do fine!” The six deadly words that many instructors and exam proctors say to exam and test takers to calm nerves. The reality is that unless you are a genius, which few of us are, preparation and study are the only assurances that “You will do fine”.

There are basically two types of Food Handler courses being offered – in class and online. Preparation is pretty much the same for both with the only real difference being the presence of hard copy study guide versus and online presentation.

Here are 10 tips that if you follow them you can confidently respond to the above comment from an instructor or to yourself with a resounding, “Absolutely, I know I will!”

  1. Prep before your online course or classroom course

Read your “Study Guide” and were available complete all practice questions. This may seem so basic but in 25 years of performing food safety certificate education and administering exams, I am constantly amazed by the number of students who have never opened their study guides until the day of the class and exam.

Take advantage of the internet and seek out food safety information where you have questions. If you are taking an online course, you may not have a physical “study guide” however there are resources available online to help prepare you for the Food Handler Certificate course and exam.

  1. Make your “study time” productive and focused

First off, get organized with your materials. Set aside scheduled time every day to study prior to your exam. If you can only spare 15 minutes, that is fine, just focus it on a specific chapter or topic that you may feel unsure about.

Cramming the night before is usually not productive and can actually be a detriment to doing your best on an exam. Studying in blocks of time and giving your mind a rest in between is the best practice.

  1. This does not have to be a “one person” effort. 

If you are part of a group of people from the same organization taking the food handler course form a study group. Studying with others can help to clear up questions by hearing different perspectives and give you a boost of confidence knowing you are not in this alone. It is always inspiring and motivating to be in a group where everyone is working to achieve the same goal.

  1. “Don’t Stress It” – Yeah, RIGHT!!

Stress before any exam, especially one where future employment may be at stake, is to be expected. The reality is that a little pressure can be motivating to do your best if handled correctly. Remember there is a BIG difference between recognizing the inevitable stress, no matter the degree, and “freaking out.”

A few things you should consider to break the “stress cycle” – Take breaks regularly, exercise (some daily activity is best), take full, deep breaths and relax. If you begin to feel a little overwhelmed and/or frustrated take a break, maybe a short walk and get away from the studying.

  1. HELP! – No reason to go it alone

Ask your instructor or more experienced peers for help – most everyone loves to offer advice and guidance to someone who is working to improve themselves.

There may be a point or topic that you are stuck on, don’t let it become bigger in your mind than it really is, ask them to help you to understand it. There is no need to sit in confused silence. You likely have a network of others who have been where you are and can walk you through it pretty quickly. Use them.

  1. Get it together

Organize any and everything you need for your exam the night before. Rushing around at the last minute before heading out to the testing site just creates easily avoidable, additional stress you do not need.

Things like pencil or pen (don’t forget a spare), eraser, water, calculator (if allowed), study guide and additional items designated (ID, answer sheet, etc.).

Don’t forget to pick out your clothes either. It is always a good idea to assume that if you are going to a class or testing center that it is going to be cold. So, think layers when picking your wardrobe. Better to have a sweater or jacket you don’t need that you endure a “freezing” room while trying to do your best on an exam.

  1. ZZZZZZ – Sleep the night before

Make every effort to get a good night’s sleep the night before your exam. Do not stay up late “cramming”. Studies have shown that, on average, exam takers who get a solid 8 hours of sleep before a test perform decidedly better than those who do not. The bottom line is that rest may be one of your best exam prep tools.

  1. Power Start-Up in the Morning

If your course and/or exam is scheduled for the morning to be sure and set your alarm clock – You don’t want to be late. Again, stress you do not need. Eat breakfast, let me repeat that – EAT breakfast, something. Your body and your brain (which you will need for the exam) need fuel to perform. Hunger will distract you and for sure affect how well your brain processes the questions. Like it or not eat.

  1. It’s On! Class or Exam Room Dos and Don’ts

Once you are in the class or exam room, do not engage in conversations with others who are bemoaning the difficulty of the material or not having enough time to study or anything negative regarding the exam you are about to take. You don’t need it in your mind and if you feel you need to move to another seat . . . MOVE! They may be panicked, but there is no need for you to be, you are prepared.

If there is a class before the exam, pay attention, take notes and compare your understanding of the materials you studied to the information being given by the instructor. Keep an ear out for items studied that are not consistent with the materials you were using to study. Ask questions for clarification.

If there is no class before the exam, avoid the inclination to do a little last minute “cramming.” Studies indicate that this is not a good practice and quite often seeds anxiety and stress.

Once the exam is distributed, read the instructions very carefully and ask questions if there are any directions you do not fully understand. Consider the total number of questions and keep an eye on the clock to be sure you are on track to finish on time.

If you are unsure of an answer leave it blank and come back to it later. Take advantage of the full testing time available to review your answers and be sure you have answered all the questions. Also, avoid the tendency to “second guess” yourself. As you are reviewing your answers, you may go back to the one question you were unsure of when you answered it. Unless you are 100% positive your first answer was wrong, don’t change it. Trust your “gut” when faced with a question you are not sure of the answer.

  1. It’s Over – Give Yourself a Treat (You Deserve It!)

 Ice cream, cold beer, lunch at your favorite place, whatever . . . Treat yourself to something. You worked, put it the time and now it is time to relax. BTW – You have nothing to worry about if you followed these tips, I am sure “You will do fine” and maybe even EXCELLENT! You will have that Food Handers Card you need.