We’ve all experienced it-that suffocating feeling, the sweaty palms, the faster heart beat that seems to be pounding in your ears. No, I’m not talking about your first kiss, I’m talking about-gasp! A test! Yes, tests can be scary. More than likely you’ve had nightmares at some point in your life where you were given a pop test you were unprepared for. But read and follow these 10 simple steps and you won’t have to feel that way again.
1) Know what you’re being tested on and learn strategies for answering each question format. It’s simple, but often overlooked! This information is readily available online for most standardized tests. For tests in a school or college setting, pay attention to how your teacher asks questions and the types of questions in the book.
2) Study the material in an environment that is physiologically similar to the testing environment. For example, if you tend to have moderately high test anxiety, studying while moderately exercising may be a helpful tool. Studies have shown that your brain programs your memories within the context that you “record” it.
3) Take breaks- small ones for a limited time and use them wisely for things that will keep your mind active. Relax, but don’t let your brain slip into laziness. Tip: Using your break to do push-ups or running in place can actually help increase your mental capacity for complex thought.
4) Drink water. It’s simple, but true. Your brain relies on plain old H20 for all of it’s chemical reactions, and memories require chemical reactions. So, make sure you’re well hydrated. Using your study break to fill up your water bottle can be a great use of your mental break. For times when you feel slightly burned out on studying, take a minute or two, chug some water, breath, and get back in there.
5) Don’t wait until the last minute to study. Study well ahead of time and study consistently.
Note: Very few people are successful at cramming for tests, and those with test anxiety are not a part of that elite group. Additionally, the information you learn through more consistent means will stick with you longer and improve your mental acuity even as you age. Acquire a love of learning and your mind will thank you later!
6) The night before the big test, take a break. You should know the material by now anyways. Do something physical like going for a jog to take your mind off of it or hang out with some friends. This relaxation will help you to head off the normal battle with test anxiety.
7) Get your sleep! While you are asleep, your brain enters what is known as REM sleep. During this phase of sleep, the neurons that were activated during the day are activated again in a process which helps to solidify your memory. If you skip sleep, you’ll have a reduced recall of the information, which might mean a less than terrific test score and increased anxiety about testing in the future.
8) On the big day, wake up in enough time to get ready at a leisurely pace. Dress comfortably and in layers to prepare for any testing situation. Eat a healthy breakfast with a glass of water to jump start your brain. Review just a little bit before the test, about five minutes will be enough. Reviewing will jog your memory and put your brain in the right mindset for the test. Once you’ve reviewed it once, take a deep breath and put it away. You’re ready for the test.
9) During the test, breathe. Look at every question and read it to yourself slowly until you understand it. Then attack the question like you rehearsed during your studies. If there is a surprise on the test, sit back, take a deep breath, do what you can, and move on. Do not allow a single problem to keep you from finishing the test. The goal is to get the most points in the amount of time you have. If you still have time, double back to the questions you were unsure about. Something might jog your memory and help you to answer the question.
10) When you’re done, go celebrate. You tried hard, gave it your all, and you deserve a break!