This is the last in a series of five blog posts for the article, “The Rules of Game Day” by BrainStorm’s Chief Brainiac, Scott Doty.
In this series, you’ll learn test-taking tricks, tips, and find resources for further review.
How to STORM THE TEST
V. Test day
We will assume for this discussion that the test begins in the early morning (8am). Most of these principles help whether the test takes place at this hour or not.
No later than 6am. 5:45am is ideal. The typical adult brain requires 70 minutes to be fully alert; the typical teenage brain requires 90. People think they should sleep as much as possible before the test to ensure they are well rested—but this approach is counter-productive. Give the mind time to wake up, so you do not bomb the very first section of the test—which, as we can imagine, sets a terrible emotional tone for the rest of the day.
Do 20 minutes of physical exercise. This does not mean heavy lifting, but it does mean stretching, jogging, push-ups, yoga, etc. The action has two crucial benefits: it moves oxygen to the brain, which it needs to properly wake up, and it raises the levels of endorphins—the chemical that makes us “happy.” I often encourage people to listen to uplifting, powerful songs while they do this wake-up workout.
Stick roughly to your norm. Sure, it’s not ideal to drink coffee or eat sugary treats—but if your body is accustomed to them, it may have problems getting out of the gate. The ideal is to start on a healthy regimen a week or two before the test—protein (via eggs, avocado, nuts) and high-vitamin fruit (bananas, berries) are ideal. However, I do not stress this point too finely—whatever makes the student comfortable and happy is fine by me.
If the person showers that morning, he or she should not let the shower be uber-hot… too easy to fall back into sluggish mode. We are going to dominate today! Life is good! We take tepid or cold showers.
This point is non-negotiable: you MUST wear smart clothes. No sweatpants or pajamas, which your brain has been trained to associate with tiredness and sloth. Instead, we do what professional athletes do when they travel between cities: we dress sharp, because it sharpens the mind. Slacks, button-downs, nice shoes, even hair gel and cologne/perfume—these things tell us to be sharp, to be aggressive, to be professional. We are here to kick butt and take names.
Meditate, pray, do some light problems, give yourself some pep talks. Smile. Tackle a puppy. It’s time to keep up those good vibes you established last night.
WHAT TO BRING:
Extras (extra calculator, batteries, pencils, etc); a stopwatch if helpful; and a “bag of tricks”—snacks, water, mouthwash, Altoids or other potent breath mints, headache medicine (I personally use Excedrin because it also has a dash of caffeine), etc.
If pre-test is properly executed, the test taker should be awake, calm, and optimistic. He or she will probably notice that the other test takers are far less so, and this will only serve to augment our test taker’s confidence. We should have no problem jamming through the first two hours of the test.
We take breaks seriously—especially the one in the middle of the test. We need to avoid hitting a physical or emotional energy wall, so we use the break to gear back up. How? By reestablishing some pivot points we hit that morning: by moving oxygen in our systems (jumping jacks in the hall, push-ups in the bathroom), by eating/drinking a bit, by giving ourselves a pep talk and high-fiving a buddy (“Isn’t this fun, bro?”), and by delving into our bag of tricks (taking an Excedrin, popping a handful of Altoids, etc). We are doing well!! We are enjoying ourselves! Section 2 was not our best, but it’s all good—we can still hit our goal score if we finish strong. We are engaged in the moment—not over-thinking the stakes, not looking forward to being done with this wretched thing… we are right here, taking care of business.
If we can avoid hitting the wall somewhere around halfway to two-thirds of the way through the test, we have got it made. If we let our general enthusiasm and optimism surrounding the experience to suffuse our mentality, we will not agonize over individual questions—none of which makes or breaks the overall score—but rather briskly, confidently rock from one question to the next and keep the vibes positive. In short, if we manage to create optimistic momentum the night before the test, and carry that momentum through the test day experience itself, then we will have truly given ourselves the best possible chance at succeeding.
Read more from The Rules of Game Day series:
This entry was posted in Brain Food, BrainStorm’s resource center for parents.
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