As I’ve mentioned in an early podcast episode, you will be more creative in the things that you have spent a fair amount of time studying, and so the October 26, 2011, Wall Street Journal article, Toughest Exam Question: What is the Best Way to Study?, by Sue Shellenbarger, caught my eye.
The information in this article is geared towards someone taking an exam, like in high school or college, and it’s easy to see how this information can apply to someone going on a job interview. A good deal of this information also applies to our creative endeavors, and will be familiar with those familiar with this blog.
Shellenbarger writes that a growing body of research on study techniques shows that to do optimally on a test, you should:
- Repeatedly test yourself before the exam, like with practice tests, to teach the brain to retrieve and apply knowledge from memory and to help with test-taking skills. I used this technique years ago, first when studying for the GED to graduate high school a year early, then for the SAT, then for the EIT and PE exams. Back in the day, I just went to a general bookstore or technical bookstore and picked up a book on practice exams. Now, I would assume these can all be found on-line.
- Get enough sleep
- The night before the exam, review the toughest material right before going to bed. Presumably this helps in recalling the information the next day. I bet it also gives you a restless sleep.
- Don’t wake up earlier than usual the day of the exam in order to study, as that could interfere with REM sleep that aids in memory retention.
- Don’t do the “all-nighter.” This practice is linked to lower grades and impairs reasoning and memory for as long as four days. I’ve never done an all-nighter…never had the stamina, actually, and just on the face of it it always seemed like a bad idea. People will do this for work, too, working long hours, but I always wonder if they wind up creating more problems than they solve.
- Sleeping and napping and have been discussed in this blog elsewhere. Search for it.
- Eat right
- High-carb, high fiber, slow-digesting foods are best
- Eat breakfast the morning of an exam. Oatmeal is good. I like mixing it up with crushed wallnuts, wheat germ, a cut-up apple or banana, and if it’s unflavored oatmeal a dollop of maple syrup.
- What you eat a week in advance of the exam matters, too. Eat a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid distractions, like music, text messages, TV, and email.
- Reduce anxiety on the day of the exam as that can impair performance
- If taking the exam in an unfamiliar place, visit the room or location in advance, if possible.
- Set aside 10 minutes before the exam to write down your fears and anxieties.
- Before the test, envision yourself answering questions calmly and with confidence.