Optimizing Exam Performance

How to be at your best on test day

No matter how much you studied, your efforts will all be in vain if you can’t get the job done when it matters most. The best strategy for optimizing your performance on exams is to get in the right frame of mind. If you’re confident and believe that you’ll be successful, chances are that you will. Likewise, if you have no faith in yourself, you’ll probably fulfill your own prophesy of failure.

When you enter the exam room, take a minute to compose yourself. Choose a seat that’s away from distractions and that has a clear view of a clock. When you get the signal to begin the exam, carefully read over all of the instructions and questions. It’s important to keep an eye on how much time you have left, but don’t be a slave to the clock. When you see others finish their exams and leave, remember that it’s not a race. Stay positive while writing the test. Focus on what you know and don’t get caught up on what you don’t know.

Tips for Avoiding a Mid-Test Freak-out

Most students who suffer from exam anxiety feel the most nervous before they write their test and generally find that they feel okay once the test begins. However, for some people, it’s the other way around. They only start to feel anxious once the test has begun. If you’re one of these people, you know how bad it can feel. You see the questions on the test sheet and your mind starts racing. All of a sudden, it’s difficult to recall the answers to questions that you know you studied.

If you find yourself having an anxiety attack during your exam, try to calm yourself down with these quick and easy strategies:

  • Breathe deeply. Try taking some slow, deep, deliberate breaths. Forget about the test for a minute and focus on nothing more than the air moving in and out of your lungs.
  • Give yourself a rub-down. Your muscles store tension. Relaxing your muscles will calm you down. Obviously, you can’t get a professional massage during an exam, but you can give your neck and shoulders a self-massage. Also, if the room’s not too cramped, you can release muscle tension by doing some stretches.
  • Meditate. Close your eyes and visualize yourself accomplishing your goals. Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the test. Mentally break it down into small, simple components, and deal with each in sequence. Focus all of your attention and energy on your future success.
  • Laugh. Laughter is a great stress reliever. Take a break and think back to a funny sitcom you watched or a joke your friend told you. Just make sure that you stay relatively quiet. You don’t want to break out into a hearty belly laugh in the middle of a gymnasium full of students trying to concentrate on their own exams.

Learn from Your Mistakes

After each test you take, make sure to review how you did. Figure out which study strategies worked best for you, and stick with them for future tests.

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