We’ve all been there. Struggling through a test that never ends, answering one question after the next, ending up so exhausted that you don’t even understand what the last few questions mean. Then you get your score and it’s very obvious that you muddled your way through. The reason you lose concentration during a long test is that you are suffering from a condition called ‘decision fatigue’. When the human brain is confronted with seemingly endless decisions, it loses the ability to focus. Luckily, there are steps you can take that will allow you to make higher quality choices for longer periods before fatigue sets in. Try these tips and watch your grades improve dramatically:
- Try to only take tests when you are fresh. If you take a test late in the day, after you are already exhausted, you will lose focus sooner.
- Try to limit to one exam per day. If this isn’t possible, at least try to relax and meditate between tests or your second test grade will be significantly lower.
- Low blood sugar can kill a test. Even if you are on a diet, load up on sugar right before the exam. If possible, also have a drink and/or candy available to refresh you during the test.
- Rest well the night before. Although many students stay up all night before an exam cramming, this can hurt your grade more than help it. Instead, wrap up your studying a day early and spend the night before the test relaxing and getting into bed early.
- If possible, add some protein to your breakfast on test day. Protein helps you recall information better and can stave off hunger pangs during the test.
- If your test is given in a way that allows you to backtrack, answer the questions that come to you easily first. This conserves your focus and energy so you can do better on more questions and still have some concentration left for tackling the harder ones.
- If the test is multiple choice and you are stumped, choose C and move on. Better to take a 75% chance of missing one question than to waste all of your concentration on a question you may miss anyway.
- Be well prepared. One of the best ways to prevent decision fatigue is to be prepared to the point of over-preparedness. The more information you know, the less effort it will take to answer questions and the longer you will retain your focus. Instead of studying at the last moment, try to study at least a little every day. This way, you will be such an expert on the material that your stress will be reduced and answering questions will almost become automatic.
- Make sure you are well hydrated. Your brain is 75% water and thought processes are the first to suffer when you are dehydrated. Make sure to drink plenty of water before and during the test to keep those synapses firing efficiently and to have more energy overall.
Jessica Richins is a freelance writer for aspiringnurse.com. She helps students to find top online nurse practitioner programs that will meet their individual needs.
Photo credit: iStockPhoto LP
Some great tips! I’d be inclined to each healthy longer lasting carbs (brown rice, for example) prior to a test to keep the blood sugar up and eat fresh fruit (figs are great) or dark (85%+) chocolate instead of candy with processed sugars. The latter risks a sugar spike and, in particular if its a long exam or if you have multiple exams that day, it can result in a crash that could affect the rest of the exam or the next one.