Elizabeth Gehrig By Elizabeth Gehrig • July 13, 2018

Want to Boost Your Brain Power on Exam Day? Try These 8 Simple Self-Care Tips

You probably have a pretty good idea about what it takes to prepare for an exam by now.

For starters, there's studying, completing the course work, reviewing the exam study guide and taking the practice exam, if available, in your course. Then there's scheduling your exam and actually logging in at the predetermined time.

All this is fine and dandy, but your mind isn’t the only thing that needs to be ready for exam day. Your body does, too. In fact, when it comes to a high-stress situation like taking a test, your body and mind need to work together to perform at your best. Here are some simple things you can do to boost your mind-body connection and remain sharp.

Before the Exam

1. Get a Good Night's Sleep

The importance of sleeping well goes without saying. But, since you are a busy adult, sleep can be hard to come by. So you’ll have to practice a few tricks. For example, try leaving your phone in another room at bedtime. This way you’ll be able to “disconnect” and won't be tempted to sit up scrolling through your phone when you should be getting some rest.

2. Eat a Protein-rich Breakfast

On the day of your exam, eat breakfast, but not just any breakfast. Go for something that will keep you full, like fruit and a bagel with peanut butter. If you’re like most adults, you probably rely on a cup of coffee in the morning (I know I do), but be careful not to overdo it. You don't want to be jittery and unable to focus during the exam. Instead of reaching for that second (or third, or fourth) cup, try drinking some more water and see how that feels. 

3. Get Moving

Try to get some exercise outside, if possible. Ideally, enough to make you sweat, but even a short walk is better than no exercise at all. Moving around will get your blood flowing and send oxygen to your brain, improving your cognitive functions so you’re energized and alert. Plus, you’ll work off any extra nervousness. Follow it up with a refreshing shower to help you relax.

4. Mellow Out

If you don't have time for physical exercise, try listening to some mellow music that you love. Scientists have found that music can have physical benefits like lowering your blood pressure and inhibiting the release of stress to produce a calming effect.

5. Stretch

Before your exam begins, stretch to help relax your muscles. Try some basic yoga moves, or just get out of your chair and stretch your limbs to get rid of any tension.

During the Exam

Try these tactics to stay comfortable and focused while taking your exam.

1. Breathe!

Remember to take calming breaths every few minutes. Taking deep breathes periodically during your exam can help decrease any feelings of anxiety.

2. Fidget

To prevent your body and wrists from cramping at the computer, make some subtle movements in your chair. Roll your shoulders forward and back, point and flex your feet, and breathe again. Then, roll your wrists, and make and release a few fists.

3. Remember Your Posture

Avoid slouching to keep from feeling stiff and tired during your exam session. The best way to sit at a computer is to keep your back straight and place both feet flat on the floor. Push your hips as far back as they will go in your chair. Your knees should be at the same height as your hips or slightly lower.

Elizabeth Gehrig

Written by Elizabeth Gehrig

Elizabeth Gehrig is a senior assessment development specialist in the Center for Learning and Technology. Passionate about high-stakes testing, her career spans more than 10 years in language testing, credit-by-exam and outcomes assessment. Email her at clt@tesu.edu.

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