6 Test Prep Mantras to Live By in the New Year

Inadequate preparation is one of the biggest reasons students do not perform at their best on academic tests. Yet, another key component to test prep is finding and maintaining a positive state of mind while studying and taking the exam. These are some tips to help you identify your study style.

Staying positive will reduce the inherent stress involved with studying, thus increasing your ability to concentrate and retain information. Likewise, keeping calm while taking the test enables you to more easily remember content while under pressure.

Fortunately, the New Year can be a new opportunity to perfect your studying routine. Take these six test prep mantras to heart in order to minimize stress and maximize your test-taking ability in the New Year.

1. “I can do this.”

Successful studying is rooted in positivity. The first thing you need to tell yourself when preparing for an exam is that you are fully capable of studying effectively. Negative thinking at this early stage undermines your own ability and will make it more difficult to study effectively. Here are some tips to help you mentally prepare for test day.

2. “I will not cram.” 

Though specific test-taking strategies may vary from student to student, it is clear that cramming is not a successful tactic. Your brain needs sufficient time to memorize terms and to make sense of content for easy recall. Too many students procrastinate when it comes to studying for tests, and they end up studying the bulk of the material in the most stressful period – right before the test.  

Establish a study schedule and stick to it. Give yourself at least two weeks to study for a regular classroom exam, or two months or more for intense standardized tests like the SAT, ACT, or GRE.

3. “Keep doing what works, stop doing what does not.” 

There are countless study routines and methods, many of which may work better for you than others – and vice versa. Such strategies include rewriting your notes, using flashcards, working in a study group or with tutors, listening to recorded lectures, or any helpful combination of these approaches. Using practice content specific to a test may help, too; for instance, taking ACT practice tests leading up to your ACT test day. 

Ditch study strategies that you find boring or ineffective, and stick to what works for you personally. Remember that most students benefit from using not one, but a variety of study techniques. For instance, you may find it helpful to both rewrite your notes and listen to recorded lectures in order to better understand the notes you rewrite. Do not hesitate to think outside of the box; combine several different effective strategies to maximize the time spent studying. 

4. “Each mistake is a new learning opportunity.”

It is important to make sure you do not become discouraged by any past test prep errors. Suppose that you test out a studying technique you have never tried before, and it ends up negatively affecting your performance on a test. Do not get hung up on your mistake! Instead, simply move forward, recognize why it failed, and study differently next time. Here are some great tips on how to best study for a test.

5. “I have become so much better at _____.”

It is easy to become dispirited while studying for a subject about which you are less confident. However, negative thinking and despair will not improve your approach to it. Turn around your negative attitude by thinking about the improvements and progress you have made over time in a difficult subject. Remind yourself of challenging concepts that you encountered but eventually figured out. A positive outlook will give you the confidence you need to successfully prepare for a test in a challenging field of study.

6. “I am ready for this test.”

After you have sufficiently studied for an exam using the above mantras, it is time for one last boost of positive thinking. Consider all of the high quality studying time you have devoted to your upcoming test. Picture yourself using your tried and tested techniques while studying for your test, and tell yourself you will do well. Then step into your exam room and ace that exam!