We see you. You’re pulling an all-nighter, cramming in a semester’s worth of concepts, theories, principles, anatomy, vocabulary. Summarizing pages of hand-written notes, most of which is written in a form of short-hand that you no longer recognize. You’re burning up Google. You’re 52-weeks deep into your crush’s Instagram feed before you toggle over to Facebook to check out your friend’s cat photos. We see the exasperation from a cram session like this the night before a test. As the hours roll, you begin to sweat.
Well if you’re going to sweat a test, then we are here to reinforce our commitment to you (and to squeeze the most out of your sweat). After all, you’ve made the commitment to become a graduate, and we know you can do anything you put your mind to.
Here are 3 tips to help you take the next test –
Positive Self Talk – Using positive reinforcement and acknowledging that you have done, and are doing, your best is one of the top test-taking strategies you can invoke. This is the fuel that rouses the energy that will keep you going. Address your potential head-on and encourage yourself to upgrade your goals. Commit to getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Unload on paper – This is a great tool, and probably our favorite. When we feel nervous, our capacity to think clearly and solve problems accurately is reduced. When taking an exam, students draw on working memory, the mental holding space where we manipulate facts and ideas. And when we’re anxious, our worries use up some of this working memory, leaving fewer cognitive resources to devote to the task at hand – in this case, taking a test. Spend ten minutes immediately before the test and write down your thoughts and feelings. This is called “expressive writing.” You may think writing about a looming exam would only heighten your anxiety, right? But the opposite is the case. Offloading them onto the page makes room in that holding space. This exercise is worth its weight in sweat.
Skip Around – Now while the world is your stage, we don’t mean this one as literally as it sounds. Skim the test before beginning to answer the questions, and then leave the hard ones for last. If you go blank, skip the question and go on. Just don’t panic. Read and re-read to dig out answers you need. Add details to your paragraphs to spark your memory (and to make them more interesting). Never underestimate how powerful your mind is when it’s challenged. When the test is over, feel free to crank the BPM and skip laps around the field, full blast. Now that’s the kind of sweat that feels good!
Our brains react to any kind of anxiety-causing stimuli in the same way. Whether we’re anxious about an oncoming train, or the difficulty in choosing between answer b and answer c, our anxiety—even just a little anxiety—is going to make thinking more difficult. (Insert lecture here) Never give up. Always do your best. Use that Spartan determination to push forward. Afterward, you’ll feel like you can take on anything… including the adorable horror from your feline-owning friends and the ridiculous number of cat photos they’ve posted.