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Five Ways to Regain Focus During an Exam

Updated: Jun 25, 2021

Many of the students that we work with are diagnosed with ADHD or anxiety. These students often struggle with similar types of cognitive disfunction symptoms, like becoming easily distracted by intrusive thoughts or sounds. For accommodated students, being able to stop the clock to avoid racing thoughts and fears can be incredibly effective. But for those who do not have this type of test-day accommodation, relying on quick and easy techniques to regain your focus and get back to answering test questions is critical.

Below are five ways that are proven to help students regain focus. My students and I even developed a mnemonic to help remember the techniques on test day. Find a technique or two that works for you, and add them to your test-day toolbox.

1. Go ahead to another question. Take a peek at some easy questions that are easier to think clearly and maintain your focus on.

2. Define your success, and then offer yourself a reward. Reward yourself with something you like to do after a successful exam. For example: “If I finish strong without rushing, I’ll take a walk and get some ice cream later.”

3. Mantras, Mantras, Mantras. A simple mantra can be chanted either before or during your exam (but not out loud if you are not able to talk out loud during your exam). When we utter the same word over and over again, it generates sounds and vibrations, that boost our concentration power. Moreover, it helps us take complete control of our mind. Try the simple utterance of the word OM. The chanting of OM repeatedly sends across vibrations essential for the nourishment of the mind.

4. Accepting Reality (a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy technique). In a high-pressure testing situation, there are things you wish you could change, but simply can't. So, how do you cope? Breathe deeply, by counting your breaths, or closing a nostril on the inhale and breathing through your nose. This helps calm your body and your mind and stay in a wise mindset.

5. "Half-smiling" and Posture exercises — Relax your face and mouth completely, turning your mouth up in a Buddha-like half-smile. It's a serene, relaxed facial expression that relaxes your body so your mind will start to follow. Be aware of your body posture, how your neck and shoulders feel, how much work your wrists are doing, and the way your body feels in your chair. Listen for the sounds of the birds outside. Look away from your screen or paper and relax your eye muscles.

You can combine most of these techniques into an easy-to-remember mnemonic: BORPS. BORPS stands for breathing, om, reward, posture, and smiling. Write in on your paper when your exam starts, and try moving through a few of the techniques in under twenty seconds. If you can do this, you'll be well on your way to maintaining and supporting a clear, focused and conscious test-day brain.

Study on, and study well!

Shana Ginsburg, Esq.

Founder and CEO,

Ginsburg Advanced Tutoring, LLC

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