Sometimes, doing well on a test is as much about making sure that bad things don’t happen as it is about your pre-test strategies. Let’s face it: All of us have had the experience of getting ready to go take a big test, only to have “one of those days” when everything seems to work against us. Let’s take a look at all of the things that sometimes go wrong on test day–and at ways that you can beat those problems.
Oversleeping on test day. This one can throw off all of your plans for the day. Hoping to do some last-minute review just before the test? Or maybe you want to just do some relaxation exercises. There’s little chance of that when you oversleep. Oversleeping also makes it more likely that you’ll forget to take along something important, and will put your mind in a state of stress before you even answer the first question.
POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS: Instead of setting one alarm, set two or more. That way if you don’t hear one, maybe you’ll hear another one. Also, you’ll be more likely to get up on time if you go to bed at a decent hour. Finally, if you’re just not sure that an alarm will wake you, give someone permission to come in and physically wake you and to keep yelling and shaking you until you get up.
Feeling sick to your stomach before the test. Sometimes the stress of a test can cause this; other times, it might be something physical going on inside your body.
POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS: One thing you can do is to be careful of what you eat for breakfast. For instance, a huge percentage of the population is lactose intolerant to at least some degree. So avoid milk before a test. Also, eat something for breakfast–but be careful what you eat and how much you eat. Finally, keep on hand medicines like Pepto Bismol or Maalox.
Test anxiety. This is a form of the very real psychological condition known as performance anxiety. In the test-taking context, it’s recognized when you think you know the answers, but you brain “freezes” during the test itself.
POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS: The best solution is to know the material so well that there is almost no chance of you forgetting it. That means studying, not just the day before the test, but over a period of days or even weeks. Also, learn some relaxation methods that you can use before the test. This could include breathing exercises, meditation, or just resting your eyes before the test.
Cold hands. You might not be aware of it, but cold hands can pose a problem before a big test. Think about it: Haven’t you noticed that it’s sometimes difficult to write fast when your hands are cold. This happens because our muscles contract slower whenever they’re cold.
POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS: Some instructors, especially at the college level, will allow drinks in the testing room. If so, keep a hot drink and keep your hands on it, warming them. If this is not true, then don’t be afraid to blow warm air into your hands repeatedly for five minutes before starting the test.