How to Ace a Test
Great tip from Wired magazine’s November 2011 edition:
You’ve studied. You’ve taken practice exams. You’ve gotten a good night’s sleep. there’s only one thing left to do before that big test: Get some exercise. According to experiments conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, one of the best things you can do to prep your brain for an intellectual challenge is to get in a perfectly timed small workout. Here’s how to sweat your way to a better score.—Brendan I. Koerner
Consider a Treadmill
You need to get your heart racing to sharpen your cognition, but you don’t want to risk overtaxing your mind. So avoid athletic pursuits against opponents—even virtual ones. One study found that treadmill workouts improve mental performance but vigorous sessions of Wii games do not.
Hit the Sweet Spot
Avoid either under- or overexertion: Taking it too easy will leave you as dull as when you started, and overdoing it will make you too tired to focus. Aim for a heart rate of about 60 percent of max. Use a heart-rate monitor to make sure you keep that same exertion plateau for a full 20 minutes.
Timing Is Everything
The cognitive benefits don’t kick in the moment you hop off the treadmill. Ongoing research suggests it will be anywhere from five to 20 minutes before they take effect. So time your workout to end about 20 minutes before the proctor yells, “Go!”
The cognitive boost can be short-lived. After about 50 minutes researchers saw a return to baseline. So tackle the hardest questions first—remember, they’re often placed at the end of each section.
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