When you struggle with focusing challenges, exam writing can be seriously frustrating. We often hear stories of students feeling like they studied hard, knew their stuff, but when it came to getting it all down- they didn’t perform their best. Having a strategy for exam writing can help you take control, reduce stress, and be set up to “show all that you know!”
At Springboard, we work with individuals with focusing issues of all ages. We know how stressful it can be heading into those big exams. As this season is upon us, we are sharing our top 5 tips. And remember, you don’t have to be formally diagnosed with an attention issue to take advantage of these great ideas!:
- Study strategically: When studying, try to “practice for your exam”. Don’t just read and take notes, or highlight. Prepare by simulating exam questions as much as possible. Ask for past exams or sample practice questions from your teacher.
- Show up in the zone: Come up with a pre-test taking ritual that helps you get in the zone – listen to music to block out the stress chatter of other students, have the right type of snacks that make you feel at your best, or even try doing a little exercise to wake up your prefrontal cortex and increase your alertness
- Don’t arrive without BRAIN food!: Eat breakfast or lunch before writing your exam, but make sure the meal isn’t too heavy – you need some blood to go to your brain too and you don’t want to be fighting fatigue while writing. (And remember a water bottle too)
- Arrive and dump your thoughts! If there’s anything that had to be memorized, and you are worried you’ll forget it- write it down anywhere on the exam paper as soon as the exam starts. This will help free your brain to concentrate on the questions in front of you. Also, if a question comes up later where you need that information, it will be ready and at your fingertips.
- Chunk it up: Exams can feel overwhelming, and stress can make it hard for you to do your best work. Start by bringing in a watch, and planning out your time per section. That way you can keep an eye on your pace and try to relax in each section. Cover up other questions, so you can give your full attention to what is in front of you. And try re-reading each question before moving on to the next one, so you don’t feel daunted about checking over the whole exam at the end!
By managing your head space and ritualizing the exam writing experience, you can feel more in control (no matter what gets thrown at you!). Wishing you a successful exam season from our team!
Laura MacNiven is the Director of Clinical Services at Springboard Clinic- a multidisciplinary resource that assesses and treats ADHD across the lifespan. Anne Bailey is a Clinical Psychologist and Manager of Treatment Services at Springboard Clinic. Their treatment team collaborated to put together this great set of tips.