You’ve spent days, weeks (but let’s be real, days) preparing for your upcoming midterm, and it’s finally test time. If there were some reliable success-predicting equation, you’re positive the time you dedicated to those seamless notes, that perfect attendance and that mile-high flashcard stack would be more than sufficient to get you an A. But the test is passed out, you look at the first question and boom — white out. No, not like the liquid corrector. Like your brain rivals the vacuous nature of Locke’s tabula rasa.
Why does this happen? You have a self-proclaimed “photographic memory” and have spent hours pouring over the correct material. When cozied up highlighting notes on your sofa, you were relaxed and attentive. Now, in an awfully cramped desk in Evans or a crowded Dwinelle lecture hall, your anxiety levels are way higher.
When anxiety creeps in, it creates “white noise,” actually hindering your ability either to retain or remember previously learned information. If your brain is a radio station, the music is the information pertinent to test success. Anxiety is the static, interrupting the normal frequency. To get a little bit science-y, stress signals the hypothalamus region of the brain to set off hormones and nerve signals. Adrenaline is released, leading to sweaty palms, an increase of heartbeat speed and rapid breathing.
If y’all are adrenaline junkies, we highly doubt you get your fix from taking exams. We’d say most people experiencing this blank during exams find it highly frustrating. And then you become frustrated about the fact that you are frustrated, and hello, downward spiral. All of these reactions together prevent you from performing to the best of your ability.
Preventing your psyche from going haywire starts way before exam day. Yes, a typical good night’s sleep, a healthy breakfast and exercise are extremely important, but your mental state needs some love, too.
- Try and curb those rampant self-deprecating thoughts: “This class has a terrible curve — there’s no way I’ll ever beat out these other crazy Berkeley geniuses.”
- Don’t let anxiety arise in the form of procrastination: “I probably shouldn’t go to Kip’s — the rest of the class is probably in Main Stacks right now. But really, it doesn’t matter if I’m studying today or not; I’m still going to fail — screw it.”
- Don’t overstate the influence of the event: “If I don’t do well, it’ll affect my major GPA, which’ll affect my shot at getting into Northwestern for grad school.”
Do keep reminding yourself that your self-worth is hinged on WAY more than 50 multiple choice questions and two essay responses. Even though this midterm may be 30 percent of your grade, don’t let the anxiety take over 100 percent of your brain.
Contact Leah Hegyi at [email protected]