Exam success has a simple formula. The more marks the examiner awards, the higher the grade.
However, exams can create pressure and increase anxiety which often cause young people to become overwhelmed. They can find it difficult to focus their attention where they need it.
To overcome this potentially damaging challenge, the Me Power Academy teaches practical and effective techniques to help control attention and focus concentration.
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How to control attention and emotions for more exam success
These techniques include self-watching, reflecting and planning ahead (we call these S.W.A.Ps ® in the Me Power Academy). And they are techniques which contribute to exam success. Self-watching, reflecting and planning ahead allows young people to recognise challenging aspects of an exam that can lead to pressure and underperformance. They can then plan how they will use Will Power to tackle this.
Consider improving your sleep as a useful example of how to self-watch, reflect and plan ahead to improve (or S.W.A.P.®) any aspect of your life.
To do this, you would score the quality of your sleep last night out of 10. Then you would identify and write down how many more hours (or minutes) of sleep you want to achieve this evening. Then you can make a detailed plan for reaching this objective i.e. write down what time will you arrive home, what time you will prepare for bed, what time will you be in bed reading a physical book (not an electronic device).
If young people have been preparing properly in the months and weeks leading up to exams, there are three other elements to be considered for exam success.
In the days leading up to the exam
Young people should do things that boost brain function. This means optimising diet, exercise and sleep. This will reduce stress, help them control activation and think clearly. For example, power naps can aid preparations for late afternoon exams. Pre-exam exercise will also help to optimise in-exam brain performance. Exercise helps to boost the beneficial brain chemical, BDNF. Finally young people must be hydrated, and eat food which gives energy throughout the duration of the exam.
During the exam
Young people should work out their exam timings to understand how many minutes they should spend on each question. For example, if they are sitting in a 60 minute exam with five questions, each worth 10 marks, they can spend five minutes planning, 10 minutes per question, and five minutes at the end, reading back through their answers. In some cases, they might be able to begin this planning prior to the exam. Young people can use this process to maximise time, and reduce worry about spending too much on certain questions
Me Power Academy also has exam success techniques if young people feel distracted or overwhelmed during an exam. In this case, they should plan to use what we call focus words and pictures. This could be imagining focusing a spotlight of attention, and saying a phrase like “come on, get on with it”. This helps young people regain control of their concentration. If they suddenly feel overwhelmed or anxious during an exam, they could say to themselves: “slow down breathing..take a five second breath in and five second great out.”
What if you don’t know the answer?
Finally, if young people cannot answer a question during the exam, but they feel they know the answer, they need to build a habit of making a note, moving onto the next question and then coming back to the ‘problem’ question towards the end of the exam. This is because insight does not occur by force. If you know the answer it should emerge naturally, when you are not consciously thinking about it. This technique makes use of Category 1.5 Knowledge. The name comes from the old saying ‘You either know it or you dont’. We can think of these as Categories 1 and 2. Category 1.5 Knowledge is somewhere in between. It is knowledge that you many not remember immediately , but you may recall it before the end of the exam.
Exam success in the future
There are also important steps to take after the exam which WILL lead to exam success in the future. At Me Power Academy, we teach positively-weighted reflection. The best way to do this is to write down three things that went well, and one thing that you can improve in the next exam. By writing down these thoughts, you are helping Will Power to focus your attention onto helpful information.
By recognising what can be challenging before, during and directly after exams, and planning skills, and habits that will help you to manage these challenges, you will have a much better chance of enjoying exam success.
Me Power helps everyone to be healthy, happy and at their best in our challenging world. Significantly, this also includes modules on exam success. Above all, users tell us they experience quick results.
It was created by Dr. Jon Finn and the Tougher Minds team. Tougher Minds is an award-winning consultancy. Most importantly, they help young people succeed in education and improve their lifestyles.
You might also be interested in our Blog about effective exam revision.