1 December 2015
Exams often cause a lot of anxiety to students because of the amount of information they’re expected to master in a short time. If you’re afraid your memory will fail you during your tests, don’t worry. There are several ways you can boost your memory and retention before test day. Here are some great practices that will improve your memory:
Get Your Z’s
While pulling an all-nighter to cram the night before an exam may seem like a good idea, allowing you extra hours of studying, it can actually have a negative effect on your exam outcome. That’s because sleep is an important part of brain function. Your brain actually synthesizes the information it learned during sleep. Sleep also aids in memory formation, allowing you to recall information later. Without these hours of rest and rejuvenation, the brain’s cognitive abilities are inhibited. It’s much more effective for you to get a good night’s sleep than to push through until dawn looking over information you may not be able to remember anyway. If you have no choice and need to study at night, at least find out how to study for a test the night before without harming your he
Give yourself some healthy brain food before an exam. Don’t skip any meals. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and omega 3 fatty acids. Some high-power brain foods are:
Broccoli and cauliflower
Getting a bit of exercise before a test is a great way to increase the blood and oxygen flow to the brain. A quick run or bicycle ride in the morning or some jumping jacks, yoga or calisthenics should be enough to get your heart rate up and your blood pumping. Physical exercise is also a great way to boost your mood and overall sense of well-being – an ideal state of mind and body to be in before you take your exam.
A lot of exam studying is memorization, but, unfortunately, memorization is short term, meaning you’ll likely forget the information soon after you take the test. Learning how to make associations can help you to retain the information for longer. For example, you could make up Acronyms or letter associations for certain concepts such as Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally which stands for the order of operations for mathematical problems (Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction). Creating a rhyme could also help you remember important names or dates (In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue). More tips on memorizing you can find in our post on how to develop photographic memory.
Visualization is a powerful technique that can be used for all subjects. If you’re studying for a History exam, try to imagine the events as they take place. If you’ve watched a documentary or film about the events, try to incorporate those images into your memory. For a Biology exam, recall the slides of the different specimen you studied. Visualize their movements and behaviors and apply that to the concepts you learned in class. For a math exam, you can visualize equations in their most simple forms and use that to apply to more complicated equations on the exam. Also, you should try the technique of building mind palace (like Sherlock, you know?).
Divide and conquer
Don’t study for all of your exams all at once. Instead, focus on one at a time. By taking one subject and reviewing your notes and using some of the techniques mentioned above, you’re creating a specific compartment in your brain for you to recall that information. Mixing all of the information up will cause some confusing cross-referencing when it’s time to take the exams. See your studying through from start to finish on one subject, allowing some time to review your notes before the big test.
Probably the worst thing you can do to your exam performance is stress out. A little adrenaline is natural, but going into a downward spiral of negative thinking, anxiety and even hyperventilation will only make things worse. Stress causes your blood vessels to constrict, inhibiting the flow of blood and oxygen throughout the body, including to the brain. Without these necessary elements, the brain’s function also gets reduced.
If you have a tendency to stress out before a big test or exam, try taking some time right before the test to relax. Find a quiet spot, or put on some headphones and listen to some soothing music. Take several long, deep breaths. Search for any tension in your body and see if you’re able to relax those tense areas. When the time comes to start the exam, maintain that relaxed state of mind and if you feel yourself tensing up, take deep breaths and remember to relax.
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