Whether you’re a pre-collegiette poring over SAT prep books or an upperclassman getting ready to take the GRE, tests can be stressful. But they don’t have to be! From food to music to learning styles, there are multitudes of proven ways to do better on every test you take, from midterms to MCATs.
1. Chew gum
You’ve probably heard it before, but it’s no urban legend. Baylor College of Medicine did a study in 2009 where students chewed gum during a standardized math test. The gum chewers scored better than the non-chewing control group. Chewing gum improves cognitive performance in adults because it stimulates the brain by increasing blood flow, according to the researchers. The best part? You probably already have a pack at the bottom of your purse. If you’re allowed to have gum during your test, start chewing to raise that score! Chewing pre-test may also help.
2. Play some background music...
…while you study! No, you can’t jam during your test, but you can while you prepare. University of Dayton researchers found that fast-tempo music increased cognitive performance. The subjects listened to clips of fast-tempo Mozart pieces, which increased speed of spatial processing (how we understand and organize our world) and accuracy of linguistic processing (how well your brain understands words). The next time you’re studying for a big exam, turn on some fast tunes to better understand your material! The study was only done using Mozart music, so scientists aren’t sure what the effects of music with lyrics are. For now, stick with the classical channel on Pandora!
3. Eat breakfast
Now is not the time to skip your morning oatmeal. German researchers studied the effect of eating breakfast on high school students. They found that eating breakfast did increase short-term cognitive ability, as well as the students’ self-reported alertness. Before you put your game face on, make some oatmeal or some scrambled eggs to keep you awake and ready for your test. “I like to eat breakfast before I take tests because it’s one less thing to worry about,” says Vanessa, a collegiette at Johns Hopkins University. “If I’m hungry during a test, it’s really distracting.”
It’s simple, yet consistently effective. British researchers published a study last year that shows that students who brought a drink into a test did better than those who didn’t. Of course, some tests like the SAT have strict rules about what you can and cannot bring into a testing hall, but if you’re allowed to bring your own beverage, definitely fill up your water bottle beforehand. You can always quench your thirst during breaks if you have them.
A light pre-exam jog may be just what you need to boost your score. The connection between cognitive ability and exercise is well-researched and could potentially be a great (and free) way to do better on tests. If going to the gym isn’t part of your weekly routine, try to fit in some quick dorm room exercises before you go to your test. According to scientists, exercise makes the neurons in your brain nimble, strengthening your brainpower. “For me, exercise loosens up my body and makes me relax. You get a clear head,” says Rebecca, a student at the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins.
6. Plan to treat yourself after
Telling yourself you’ll splurge for that new nail polish once your exam is finished just might push your score over the edge. According to a University of Chicago study, the offer of a reward after a test is enough to boost scores. The next time you’re stressing about a test, tell yourself you’ll treat yourself afterwards—and then do it! Or, better yet, get a study buddy and reward each other.
7. Nix the fast food
If you want to pass your chem exam, you may want to trade in the French fries for a bowl of fruit. According to a recent study, the more fast food students consume, the lower their test scores will be. But you shouldn’t just avoid fast food the day before a test! Keeping your body as healthy as possible by avoiding fast food year-round is also a great way to help your brain stay healthy.
So, collegiettes, if you have an upcoming test, try out a few of these tips to boost your score! Let us know how they worked in the comments below!