Preparing the Brain for Taking a Test
Sometimes little things make a big difference. Using what we know of the brain, we can make small adjustments that can boost our students’ brain power and give them an advantage when taking a test. The following is a Practitioner’s Corner from my book that teachers can use to boost cognitive performance in their students before they take an exam.
Taking a test can be a stressful event. Chances are your students will perform better on a test of cognitive or physical performance if you prepare the brain by doing the following:
- Exercise. Get the students up to do some exercise for just two minutes. Jumping jacks are good because the students stay in place. Students who may not want to jump up and down can do five brisk round trip walks along the longest wall of the classroom. The purpose here is to get the blood oxygenated and moving faster.
- Fruit. Besides oxygen, brain cells also need glucose for fuel. Fruit is an excellent source of glucose. Students should eat about 2 ounces (over 50 grams) of fruit. Dried fruit, such as raisins, is convenient. Avoid fruit drinks as they often contain just fructose, a fruit sugar that does not provide immediate energy to cells. A recent study shows how just 50 grams of glucose increased long-term memory recall in a group of young adults by 35 percent and recall from working memory by over 20 percent (Korol & Gold, 1998). Subsequent studies have found similar memory boosts (Smith, Riby, van Eekelen, & Foster, 2011; Sünram-Lea et al., 2008).
- Water. Wash down the fruit with an 8-ounce glass of water. The water gets the sugar into the bloodstream faster and hydrates the brain
Wait about five minutes after these steps before giving the test. That should be enough time for the added glucose to fire up the brain cells. The effect lasts for only about 30 minutes, so the steps need to be repeated periodically for longer tests.