37. TESTING TIMES
Exam stress doesn’t occur most strongly during the actual exams but in the few weeks just before them. The climax is usually the night before, when last minute preparations confirm your worst fears. There are, however, some simple ways of dealing with the problem.
First, the dedicated student can suffer from anxiety, brainblocks and memory “gaps,” just as much as the student who has left everything to the last minute. But the remedy is the same in each case. The night before is too late to do anything. Far better to go to dance, for a walk, to the pictures or play a game rather than increase stress by frantic efforts to plug in gaps in your knowledge.
The brain is a complex bioelectrical machine, which, like a computer, can be overloaded. It does not work continuously, but in fits and starts. As you read this, the relevant part of your brain receives the messages from your eyes, processes them, and you comprehend. All this occurs in a series of steps. When you study, your brain reaches its maximum efficiency about five minutes after you start work, stays at a plateau for about ten minutes, and thereafter it is all downhill. Indeed, after thirty minutes your attention wanders, your memory actually shuts off, and boredom sets in.
For this reason, the best way to study is in half-hour sessions, with gaps in between of about the same length. It even helps to change subjects and not keep at the same one, since this reduces the boredom factor.