January 17, 2018

Test Taking Strategies

Before the Test

Your body needs rest. Although you may be tempted, especially before a big test or exam, don’t stay up all night. Your body needs to be rejuvenated – it’s like your iPod. . . the battery runs out and you need to recharge it otherwise it’s of no use!

Everyone know that you need adequate exercise – nothing new there, but how does it help when you’re preparing for a test? Exercising increases your memory capability! How? Exercise releases endorphins, a chemical which reduces stress. It provides a “natural high” and the release of endorphins will “declutter” your mind and allows for better concentration! After just five minutes of aerobic exercise (like walking), you can feel the results.

Food for thought . . . when you smile, it triggers your brain to release endorphins! Go ahead and smile all day before you take that important test!

What else could you do??

Your thoughts alone can determine how your body reacts to stress. Your mind remembers past events and acts accordingly. You need to re-program your mind with new thoughts. If your brain thinks something awful will happen, like not doing well on a test, your body responds as though it’s actually happening . . . and we don’t want that to happen! Visualize your success. Create self-fulfilling prophecy. You can only control your thoughts, so make sure they’re good ones!

During the test

So the day of the test is here! Your chance to show everything you know! As your body reacts to the possible anxiety you feel, blood moves away from part of brain that stores and processes information and moves to where the emergency is, whether it’s real or contrived in your mind. It gets ready to fight or flight. It makes sense how you can blank out or forget important information during a test since there is no blood in that area of the brain to retrieve the information you knew so well the night before.

To relieve the pressure you may feel when you get the test in front of you, mind dump as soon as you receive the test. Before you allow stress to play a role in your ability to show what you know, put down all the information that you are holding onto in the storage and processing center of your brain so you don’t lose it. Even though you think you know the formulas, dates, or vocabulary, put them down at the top of your paper so you allow your brain to utilize that information during the test rather than having to produce it from the inner folds of your brain. Your brain will thank you!

Use your breath to put yourself in a relaxed state of mind. You can turn that flight or flight mode off by turning on the relaxation response. Learn to use your breath as a means of allowing adequate blood flow to the parts of your brain that have stored all that information you need to recall during the test.

Look over the entire test. Start with the questions you know the answers to first. Circle the questions that you have answered but want to come back to check if you have the time. If you are working on a difficult problem, be mindful of the amount of time you spend on it. It’s easy to get consumed or wrapped up on one problem then realize you are almost out of time and have half the test left to complete. If the problem leaves you trying to recall a particular piece of information, move on. When you are working on the other problems, you may be surprised that what you were previously searching for pops back in your mind when you weren’t even trying to recall it anymore.

After the Test

Let it go . . .the test is over! You don’t have any control over it now.

You might think there isn’t much else you can do after you’ve taken the test, but you should engage in positive activities. Your brain creates an association with test taking. If you are in a bad mood, or spend time beating yourself up for what you should have done, you are creating memories deep in your subconscious that associates with the test taking experience. Create positive associations so the test taking experience will not have a negative connotation in the future.

Keep perspective. Take a look at the continuum of life. This is just one test. In just one course. Just one grade in your span of a lifetime. Will you allow one test to determine your future?

Habits set the course for rest of life, not one test.