For students enrolled in an ESL course, the culminating exam is incredibly important. Even the most dedicated students may get stressed out or nervous beforehand. And other students who are well-versed in the material might find themselves questioning their knowledge during the test or having a hard time making decisions.
Psychologists link exam performance directly to each student’s working memory. This part of the memory blends long-term knowledge, such as the material learned in an ESL course or other formal learning environment, with the problem that has to be solved. In other words, it impacts your ability to draw upon your knowledge to come up with a solution on the spot.
Fortunately, there are some tricks ESL course students and others can take advantage of when preparing for an exam. The key to success is limiting pre-exam stress. If a large percentage of your mind is dealing with feelings of stress during the test, your working memory is negatively impacted. In order to cut stress, try these simple exercises before a test.
First, give yourself a positive pep talk. Tell yourself that you’re going to do well on the exam. Remind yourself that you have a great opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge. Even if you get a few questions wrong, you’ll have the chance to learn new things and expand your knowledge later. Keep the comments positive and strive to stay optimistic.
Second, take just 10 minutes to write down your thoughts shortly before the scheduled exam time. Allow yourself to express concerns about the test, staying positive but being honest about your feelings. By releasing these thoughts in written format you can free up valuable working memory space for the test.
Lastly, maximize your memorization skills when studying. If you have basic facts, words, and rules memorized in advance, your working memory will be able to focus on more advanced problem solving. This means you’ll have one less thing to worry about in that moment, which can be a big relief during any important test.