Blanked Out: Test Anxiety Solved

It’s finally the day of that big exam. You can hear your heart beating loudly in the silent lecture hall as the TAs pass out the papers. When you finally get your first look at the questions, your heart sinks. You know you read this on the review sheet, perhaps did a few practice problems that were similar. So why can’t you remember?

Having your mind go blank in the middle of an exam can be a terrifying experience; here are some tips to get your test back on track.

1. Get a good night’s sleep the night before test-day.

I know it’s tempting to stay up late cramming a few more facts into your brain. I mean there’s nothing a large jolt of caffeine at the right time can’t help you conquer, right? Wrong! While caffeine may take away that irritating drowsy feeling, it does not fix the fact that your brain simply cannot function at its highest potential when sleep deprived. In fact, it has been found that the pre-frontal cortex, the portion of the brain responsible for reasoning and memory is forced to work much harder when you have not had enough sleep. Unsurprisingly, the harder the brain is forced to work to complete everyday activities, the less efficiently you are able to think under stress. By pulling an all-nighter, you are actually putting yourself at greater risk of forgetting not only the crammed material, but known material as well.

2. Don’t get hung up on the problems you can’t remember.

If you happen to forget a concept in the middle of your exam, try to get some distance by skipping the problem and coming back to it later. By saving the problem for a little later in the test there is an increased chance you may remember something that will help, and you won’t waste precious time guessing. The last thing you want to do on a test is to get so hung up on a single question that you wind up missing questions you could have answered.

3. Stay confident!

It’s really easy to begin doubting your overall knowledge after you blank on something. Don’t let one mistake get the best of you, just because you forgot something does not mean the foundation of your knowledge less strong. Go forth with a confidence you may not feel.

4. Breathe.

This seems like a no brainer, but it’s surprising how often you can find yourself holding your breath in a stressful situation. Taking some slow, deep breaths will clear the CO2 out of your blood, and as a result, will help you think more clearly as well as relax.

5. Don’t panic or psych yourself out.

No matter what happens during the test, panicking is one of the worst things you can do. Perhaps the professor included material that wasn’t on the review sheet (jerk!), there is nothing you can do during the test except focus on doing your best. Pro-tip, in order to do your best, don’t think about the exact effects this test will have on your grade, academic standing, and scholarship. Focus all your attention on the present moment, and remain calm, there will be time to talk (or cry) to your friends (or mom) about the test later.

Exams, are a stressful inevitability of the collegiate experience, and we are all bound to have off days. While you may not always be able to control how well you do on an exam, you can control how you react and recover from a scary moment on a test. Good luck with all your exams collegiates!


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