Should I Drink Coffee Before an Exam?

Coffee is a great ‘ol pal in the morning for many people. It is quite a popular drink among youngsters as well. They believe that a cup of steaming hot coffee (read caffeine) helps them stay focused in classes.

Since coffee is renowned for elevating focus and keeping you alert, many students wonder if it would be good to consume it before an exam.

Let’s find out.

Is it a Good Idea to Drink Coffee before an Exam?

The short answer is yes! You should definitely consider having a cup of coffee before an exam. Since you are trying to recall information during an exam, coffee can be a great way to stimulate your mind.

Drinking coffee before an exam helps the brain function better. Coffee can’t help you do better on an exam, but it will definitely provide you with the energy and buzz your brain requires for this task.

Why Should You Consume Coffee Before an Exam?

It is not actually the beverage that gives you the energy. It’s the caffeine in it. Caffeine has plenty of benefits for your health, but it can specifically help you perform better in exams by:

Improving Memory

The one thing you rely on most during an exam is your memory. Not being able to recall information can be problematic for obvious reasons.

Caffeine can help jog your memory. In fact, some studies show that a cup of coffee can improve your retention skills.

Making You Vigilant

It is essential to stay alert during an exam. An increased level of focus helps you pay attention. This increases your productivity, and the caffeine elevates your performance in the exam.

That said, you can’t magically pass your exam because of a cup of coffee. Being well prepared and well rested will also play its part in caffeine’s perks.

Increasing Your Energy levels

You wouldn’t want to be dull and lacking energy during an exam. Your mind must be fresh and ready to take on the challenge when you begin your exam.

Since caffeine is a stimulant, it helps you keep your energy levels high, making you perform efficiently during your exam with the right amount of focus.

Some students like pulling all-nighters before the exams, which makes them sleepy and tired during the exam.

In such cases, coffee will help freshen up your mind. You must note that this will only help if you consume coffee occasionally.

The bodies of regular coffee drinkers tend to grow immune to caffeine as time passes.  

Speeding Up Your Reflexes and Reaction Time

It’s not like you become The Flash, but consuming a cup of coffee makes you respond faster to information. You might cut down on time spent trying to comprehend a question because you will be alert.

This is how your reaction time improves.

Elevating Overall Mental Performance

All the above benefits clearly show how your mental capabilities can improve with a cup of coffee. Hence, coffee would be good for you during a task like an exam where you need your brain to focus entirely on the content in front of you. 

Researchers have been busy trying to answer this question for some time.

These studies exhibit that caffeine improves your memory retention, making coffee an excellent beverage to consume before an important exam, or even a meeting or presentation.

How Much Caffeine Should You Consume before an Exam to Boost Productivity?

Naturally, after reading about the benefits, any student would try to swig cups upon cups of coffee before they begin their exam. However, that is not recommended.

Caffeine is a drug, and overdose may cause you to break down in jitters, increase anxiety, make your head ache, and give you jitters and heartburn.

There are plenty more health risks involved in overdosing caffeine, so it is definitely better to stay well within the limit.

According to Mayo Clinic, the safe amount of dose for healthy adults is 400mg. Every drink containing caffeine has a different amount, including soft drinks and energy drinks.

Typically, a cup of regular black coffee contains 200mg of caffeine. Hence, you can consume 2 cups of coffee safely without thinking about overdosing.   

Still, this does not mean that you should consume 2 cups in the morning before your exam. You can have a cup before your exam to power up your brain and put it into drive.

You will find differing opinions on the internet about caffeine consumption in a day. There are people in the world who drink multiple cups of coffee during the day.

At the same time, some people think coffee should be completely avoided and focus more on its health risks.

Hence, it is safer not to consume more than two cups of coffee.

When Does the Effect of Caffeine Start Kicking in?

When you drink a cup of coffee in the morning, the caffeine will start kicking in by the time you arrive at your college or educational institute.

Typically, caffeine starts affecting your brain in anywhere between half an hour to 40 minutes. Another essential thing to remember is the caffeine crash, when the caffeine begins wearing off.

This happens a good 8 to 12 hours after you have consumed your coffee. Exams usually do not last that long, so you are good to go in this regard. 

How Long Before the Exam Should You Consume Coffee?

It is recommended to drink coffee in the morning for the best effects. However, peak caffeine concentration occurs a few minutes after you have consumed your cup of Joe.

Since not all exams are conducted in the morning, it is best to wait and have that 1 coffee cup approximately 45 minutes before your exam is about to begin.

You must note that having 1 cup of coffee will be good enough for the whole day. Since you are seeking some extra benefits at a particular time, you can plan your consumption as per your needs.

A cup will be good enough for a short exam lasting around 3 hours. You can take another cup during the exam (if allowed) in case your exam lasts longer.

Dr. Jaqus Reifman is a senior researcher who worked with the U.S army and the Department of Defense to work on an algorithm or a schedule for drinking coffee to gain the optimum level of productivity.

According to Dr. Reifman, since 400 mg is the safe limit of consumption, you should have 200mg of caffeine after waking up and follow up with another after 4 hours.

This will ensure that you perform your best during working hours. Hence, when setting your timing, you must take into consideration the caffeine crash and the safe limit of caffeine dosage.  

What Are the Risks Involved in Consuming Coffee Before an Exam?

It is not just over dosage that can be harmful. In fact, coffee has disadvantages as well. Some of these health issues can be risky if you consume coffee before your exam.

People who consume coffee daily choose to focus more on the benefits. However, it is important to also know about the risks that might be involved in coffee consumption.

Let’s explore some that relate to consuming coffee before your exam:


If you have anxiety and are usually nervous before an exam, it is better to skip this morning beverage and steer clear of any caffeine. Coffee can escalate your anxiety and cause jitters.

Jitters and shaking usually happen when you have too much caffeine, but it is best to avoid coffee before your exam if you tend to be uneasy and nervous about your tests.

A Full Bladder

The biggest concern when consuming any sort of liquid before taking the test is having a full bladder. Typically, going out of the hall is not allowed during exams, especially if the duration is short.

This can cause trouble if you have a weak bladder. Even if you do get permission, you will lose precious time tending to your needs instead of focusing on your exam. 

However, this problem can easily be solved if you consume a smaller cup and go for a regular black coffee instead of a tall glass of latte.


Having too much caffeine in one go or overdosing can cause headaches. You need your mind to be fresh and not be distracted by aches and pains in your body during a test.

Sometimes we don’t realize that we might have consumed other food items or drinks that contain caffeine.

Consuming coffee after such items can exceed the caffeine consumption limit causing overdose and leading to side effects, such as a headache.

The Bottom Line

At times, students need an extra jolt of energy before the exam, and a cup of coffee can assist in doing so. You could time your coffee intake and have the first cup 45 minutes before your exam. 

This way, peak caffeine concentration will help you increase your productivity during the test. If it is a long exam, you could have another cup a few hours into the exam if it is allowed.

The benefits of caffeine may stimulate your mind to boost efficiency.

However, you should also be aware of the risks, such as headaches, taking too many bathroom breaks and wasting time, having jitters during the exam, and elevated stress levels.

Only you can decide if it will be good for you to consume a cup of coffee before your exams after weighing the pros and cons.