Summer is a Great Time to Sharpen Test-Taking Skills

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A previous post described how excellent preparation can be key to achieving successful test results, while also alleviating stress that can compromise performance. You know that you know the material, but can you prove it at test time?

An issue with proper preparation during the school year is that it takes time, something in short supply when so many other obligations are vying for your calendar and attention. So, it makes perfect sense to sharpen your preparation skills in the summer, when your time is more flexible.

With time on your side, think seriously about your highest test-taking stressors and the resources or skills needed to change course.

Do you lack confidence, or approach tests pessimistically?

If yes, getting in the proper mood can work wonders. After all, confidence is as much a test-taking skill as knowing math equations and formulas. Relaxing or meditating can help, but how about some active inspiration? A video that promotes an empowered mindset and good posture is a TED talk by social psychologist Amy Cuddy - with 47 million views in 51 languages. In her talk, Amy emotionally recounts experiences that taught her how to develop a personal “power pose” that helped her transform from powerless to powerful at critical times. Employing her two-minute technique before a stressful situation - like an exam or a job interview - can be a game-changer for you.

Do you rely excessively on instant recall or memory - and then freeze up?

Though you may not have a photographic memory, games, apps or face-to-face exercises can train you in powerful techniques to learn through association and reason instead of reaction. Accordingly, you can train your mind to logically connect one concept to another rather than taking a transactional ”all or nothing” approach. Online courses or apps like Lumosity and Braingle can be handy and helpful. A list including those resources can be found here. If you’re more old-school, connect with friends and family over games like Gin Rummy, Chess or Backgammon that employ a think-ahead or anticipatory strategy.

Do time limits make you tense?

With flexible and less stressful time in the summer, practice imposing time limits that occur under classroom or college entrance exam-taking conditions. Whether helped by family, friends or an online system, practice exams will document your progress in getting more done in less time, say, 20 problems in 30 minutes, then 25 minutes or even 20. Success under pressure is the ultimate test, and by imposing time constraints, you can get more comfortable operating under this all-too-common limit.

Are you going it alone?

If your mind tends to wander or you’re short on self-discipline, find an accountability partner to keep things in check. Hold each other to deadlines, and play the role of enforcer so that you can both succeed when it matters.

By using the leisure time of summer wisely, you can employ a “practice makes perfect” approach that will inspire confidence and improve your results when you need it most.

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