We have all experienced that ‘mind goes blank’ feeling at sometime or other. Perhaps it has happened when you have gone for an interview or had to speak to a group and the most common reason is when faced with an exam or test of any kind. This anxiety that causes your mind to go blank is linked to a fear of failure.
In many cultures fear of failure is linked very closely with failing an exam. So much exam stress is placed on young people nowadays, from early SATS tests to national exams at GCSE and above. Adults are not immune from this level of exam stress as they too face anxiety of this type as their career develops and more qualifications are required. Life long learning has a lot to answer for!
This is what I would recommend if you find yourself with that ‘mind goes blank’ situation:
- Take a deep breath in
- Release the breath slowly
- Read the question on the exam paper again
- Look for key words that the examiner has used
- Write these words and phrases on a blank sheet of paper
- Add to the sheet all the other words and phrases that come to mind
- No need to answer the question yet
- Let your mind wander and add more ideas
- Now re-read the question
Begin to write your answer.
Use the words and phrases you have noted to get you started. Once you begin to write you will surprise yourself on how much more information comes to mind.
Why does this work?
Often when we feel exam stress and anxiety it is because we notice other people in the room writing and generally looking as if they know what they are doing. This may or may not be true. However, once we start to write things down ourselves we can begin to get the ‘flow’ going. By writing key words and phrases and linking them with others that come into our minds we have begun the answering process. Sometimes it is just getting started that is the hardest thing.
Remember that the examiner is trying to help you.
When an examiner sets a question he is trying to help you by asking you to answer the question. When you answer the question, you are showing your knowledge and skills connected with the subject. This is what an exam is all about – an opportunity to show off your skills and knowledge. Use the clues and key words he is giving you and your exam stress and anxiety levels will reduce leaving you to think more clearly.
Other ways to help clear a blank mind
Use visualisation to clear your mind. Perhaps you see a thick fog when you are suffering from exam stress. By lifting this fog in your imagination you will reduce your exam anxiety and so be able to see the answers so much more clearly. There are so many ways in which you can picture a clear mind or get into the ‘flow’ in order to achieve exam success.
Let fear of failure and exam nerves be a thing of the past. Explore new ways of reducing exam stress – your school teacher is unlikely to do this with you.