To focus on the stress of school? Or to focus on crazy chicken?
That is the question.

When you walk out of a test and you can’t feel your jaw, that’s when you know it’s time to try something different for studying and test taking. That’s what used to happen to me. I would work myself up so much over tests that I would clench my teeth the whole time and lose feeling by the end. Please, don’t do this. Teeth clenching does not raise your scores, trust me. In light of this, I began searching for ways to alleviate my test anxiety and improve my scores. It’s not always an easy thing, and in my fifth year of college, I think I’ve worked it out, for the most part. And, the chicken above played an important role in all of this!

To Not Do:

  1. Depend on someone else’s experience in the class to get you through. Attend class and take your own notes. You’re much more likely to pick up on things that another person might not have found difficult but you need some more work on.
  2. Ignore your professors all semester—assuming that you can talk to them about the one concept you didn’t catch later, chances are you will forget. Also if you have any qualms about the test talk to the professor in advance and really make sure you get those things out of the way and covered. The professor will not think that you are stupid; in fact, he will probably be impressed.
  3. Make it more difficult than it is – so many of my bad grades have come from overthinking a problem. If you think it is super difficult then it will be super difficult. If you concentrate on thoughts like, “Let’s do this” and “I can solve this problem” then that’s what will happen.
  4. Procrastinate. Do not say, “I can do it later” – this is a bad bad bad idea. Having to study sixty-four pages of notes in two hours the night before is a sure way to give yourself a breakdown.
  5. Pull an all-nighter – sleep is pretty important. Without sleep you can’t remember what you stayed up all night trying to memorize!
  6. Drink cup after cup of coffee or another type of energy drink. I tried staying awake with coffee once (I think I made it to five cups)…instead of studying I ran around the dorm for about three hours and then crashed. Apples are much better alternatives and don’t make you jittery (believe me! Apples have been proven to have awesome stuff in them that are good for energy!) Here are 10 Ways to Boost your Energy!
  7. Put on a movie or TV show that you have never watched before. You will become more interested in that and less effective with the work.
  8. Study in a group of people with negative attitudes (even one person!) Negative attitudes will bring everybody down and make everybody do worse. Good studying plus good attitudes equal success. If one person continually talks about how they’re going to fail tell them to stop it, that they won’t fail, and if they do it’s just because they’re focusing on the negatives rather than the positives.  If they stop then you can pat yourself on the back, you’ve helped your friend. Do choose study groups wisely.
  9. Depend on the one or two problems you understand well to be on the test. In my experience, these are almost always the ones that get left off the test. If you understand it move on and study the things you do not understand. Do a basic review of everything and focus on what you don’t get.
  10. Underestimate yourself or limit yourself. If you really want to achieve it, then you can.

To Do:

  1. Determine your strongest learning style (look for your learning style and tips here). Some find re-reading helps, some make pictures of the topic, some record themselves reading the topic and listen to it, some use flash cards or just repeat the problem over and over. Using your learning strength will help you to retain. I use repetition and re-writing material over and over. It sticks it to my brain.
  2. Before the study marathon suggest to your family that they send a “care package” full of tasty snacks and anything else you like to hold you over while you study. Before the test eat healthy and don’t skimp on meals to get in an extra 30 minutes study time. Taking the time to really get good food in your body will pay off! It keeps you focused and feeling good so you can concentrate on more important things. Eat a good meal before the test, but not so much that you are too full to concentrate.
  3. Set up a study schedule – devote an hour or so a day to study over the course of a week. It reinforces your memory and makes it easier to recall things on test day.
  4. Alternate study subjects. Give yourself some variety and you won’t get so bogged down on one specific problem or concept. If you don’t understand something putting it down for a little while and coming back a bit later may really help.
  5. Exercise before studying to get your body energized and ready to sit and focus. Also try out different calming routines right before the test. Some find doing some yoga right before helps or reading some verses from a religious text or even just having your favorite dessert or coffee treat! During the test regulate your breathing. If you hold your breath like I do when you’re nervous you’re not getting any oxygen to the brain for the hard work!
  6. Studying in a group can be very helpful. Choose a positive and comfortable setting with positive friends, people that will encourage you to do well. A positive attitude going into the test is key!
  7. Put a movie you know by heart on in the background (only early on in the study marathon.) This way you will have something that makes you happy (but is not too distracting) going on around you. I like to play Beauty and the Beast or Pride and Prejudice. It also gives you about a two-hour straight interval of study time and a happy mini-break whenever you look up.
  8. Do something fun the night before – I don’t mean go party, but do something that relaxes you and makes you happy! I once attended a showing of Monty Python’s Spamalot the night before a physics’ final. The next day I scored the highest on that test out of all of my tests that semester.
  9. For morning tests make sure to get up early enough to wake up fully! Before the test glance through your notes sparingly, just getting the main idea or picking up a few key words as you see them. It’s all in your head at this point so don’t pressure yourself to read through everything for three hours straight right before.
  10. Bring something that calms you to the test. I used a little blue pom-pom chicken. A previous student, and probably my biggest college role-model, Shawn Ballard (Walton), gave it to me when I was a sophomore. She told me, “The chicken is smart. He will know the answers.” It would make me smile. Every time I got too nervous about my test I would look at or hold the chicken to remind myself that one test, while important, doesn’t determine my whole future.
Good luck taking the test! You’ll do great!
Just remember, chickens are always good study buddies.