It’s test day, and you’re going to fail.
At least, you start to think so after barely sleeping, missing breakfast, and leaving home with a handful of notecards you don’t understand. But if you structured your morning better, you could increase your chances of passing — or even improve your grade.
For students who suffer from test anxiety or just need a better study routine, these hacks can keep your memory (and sanity) intact for the morning of your exam.
1. Avoid all-nighters, and study right before you fall asleep.
Studies suggest that sleeping less may reduce your ability to correct mistakes, so errors on your test may go unfixed. Instead of staying up late, study right before you fall asleep. Your brain stores memory while you rest, so you will have a better chance of remembering exam materials than if you struggled through your notes all night.
2. Plan for a more efficient morning, including some gum chewing.
Lay out clothes for the next day (even if you don’t care about your outfit), decide what to eat for breakfast, and pack your backpack — you will get a few extra minutes of sleep and avoid forgetting something important. If your classroom allows it, pack gum in your bag along with healthy snacks; studies have connected gum chewing with alertness and better test performance, and good food will keep your brain running if your test is scheduled in the afternoon.
3. Study as soon as you wake up.
Coupling this strategy with studying before bed will seal test materials in your memory — especially if you did not spend much additional time reviewing for the exam.
4. Eat the right breakfast foods. You already know that you should eat in the morning, but choosing the perfect breakfast will help your brain operate at peak levels. Glucose is one of the most common sources for brain fuel, so eat foods that convert and release it gradually. Items with a low glycemic index (whole wheat toast, for example) alongside protein (such as eggs) will convert into steady energy. And avoid junk like donuts; these could spike sugar levels and lead to a mind meltdown before you even reach the classroom.
5. Talk to your friend about what’s on the test.
Keep absorbing information during breakfast — talk to someone! Explain or read test materials out loud to parents, roommates, your dog, or yourself; speaking doubles your ability to remember the information because you process it in two ways: seeing and hearing. Even if it feels strange, you will remember much more than you would from silent reading alone.
6. Listen to music.
During the walk or drive to class, listen to music. Songs lower stress and cause your brain to release dopamine — some research has even linked music with increased focus and productivity. For best results (and better concentration), listen to your favorite study playlist.
7. Believe that you’ll ace the test.
Still stressed? Try thinking happy thoughts. Negative feelings about your test performance can result in a self-fulfilling prophesy, but if you relax and realize that you’ve prepared as best you could, you will likely perform better.
Hack your morning, and prepare to rock your test!
Hsieh, S., Cheng, I., & Tsai, L. (2007). Immediate error correction process following sleep deprivation. Journal of Sleep Research, 16(2), 137-147. Retrieved from Wiley Online Library
Payne, J.D., Tucker, M.A., Ellenbogen, J.M., Wamsley, E.J., Walker, M.P., Schacter, D.L., & Stickgold, R. (2012). Memory for semantically related and unrelated declarative information: the benefit of sleep, the cost of wake. Retrieved from PLOS ONE.
Smith, A. (2009). Effects of chewing gum on mood, learning, memory and performance of an intelligence test. Nutritional Neuroscience, 12(2), 81-88. Retrieved from Maney Online
Waddington, T. (2009, April 27). Psychology Today. Smarts: it's not how much you learn that matters. It's how much you remember. Retrieved from Psychology Today
Aubele, T. (2011, October 18). Psychology Today. Why a sugar high leads to a brain low. Retrieved from Psychology Today
MacLeod, C. M. (2010). When learning met memory. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 64(4), 227-240. Retrieved from APA PsycNET
Padnani, A. (2012, August 11). The power of music, tapped in a cubicle. Retrieved from The New York Times
Wilmore, E.L. (1995). Test anxiety? Try a stick of gum. Retrieved from ERIC