Exams can drain your focus and mental energy fast, so it’s best to get the tough stuff out of the way first. This super simple approach to test-taking can help reduce your stress and improve your test scores.
Photo by Edna Winti.
In her book A Mind for Numbers, Barbara Oakley recommends the “hard start-jump to easy” technique for anyone who struggles on tests. Here’s what you do:
- Start on a really hard question — like an essay question, or the stuff you tend to find at the end of the test — and work on it for a few minutes.
- As soon as you hit a mental road block, shift gears and get to work on easier questions, like multiple choice and true or false questions.
- Whenever you get a spark of motivation, or come up with a good thought, go back to the tough questions.
Now continue that process until your test is complete. This technique keeps you from wasting time when you get stuck, and it plays nice with your brain — which can only focus on complex tasks for a certain amount of time before it needs a break. When you shift back and forth, you let your brain recharge while it continues to solve the problem in the background.