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LEARNING HACKS At home you could solve the equation. Now you have this total blackout. You are sitting in front of a blank page. You don’t know anything. Thinking barrier. Shortness of breath, trembling hands. All the pieces of the puzzle you have put together so laboriously yesterday are now lying on the table in one big heap. But this is the most important test of this semester …
Who does not know this feeling? Under the strict eyes of the teacher it seems that you forgot everything you have learned. No matter what subject you take the test in: you know that once you are caught up in your thoughts, you can’t get out of it so quickly. But there are ways to master blackout situations or even avoid them.
What is it that paralyses my ability to think?
Blackout is generally understood to be a thinking blockade – scientists also like to call it an “emotionally induced memory problem” or “attention-focusing disorder”. There is no exact definition, because anyone who has ever had a blackout knows that it can be related to anything. Most often it is an “unreasonably severe fear reaction in a stressful situation”.
As if you were in a life-threatening situation, the shock hormone adrenaline floods the brain together with the stress hormone cortisol. The consequence: everything you have learned is no longer available. Connections in the thinking process are disturbed and instead of A, B, C you only think A. As in the fight for survival, there are only two possibilities: fight or flee.
How to avoid blackouts
First of all, it is important to know what causes the blackout. Do you subconsciously feel guilty, because you actually know very well that you have learned too little? Then there is only one thing that helps: start learning earlier next time. This may sounds difficult, but it’s very simple and the only way to avoid the blackout on the next test. If you follow a timetable when learning, you usually have no problem with it. And the motivation to learn is also not an insurmountable hurdle.
After all, you only have to decide what is more important to you: following your weaker self and risking another blackout or showing everyone what you really got. But you shouldn’t overdo learning. If you put too much pressure on yourself you can also get a mental block. Whether it’s your parents who want to see a good grade or you want to prove to yourself that you can write an A in maths: you are not shouldn’t collapse under this pressure and you must always be aware of this.
What I want to say is that if you have reached the point at home where you have already looked at the formula three times and still haven’t understood it, you should definitely take a break, lie down on the sofa for 10 minutes and eat chocolate. And hope that you understand the formula afterwards. Of course it is even better to have started learning much earlier, because such a nasty formula usually looks much friendlier the next day … Or are you one of those students who can’t do maths at all? Then just click here.
Of course, it is also possible that you already start to sweat when hearing the word “test”. I’m pretty sure you can imagine what will happen after that. And that is exactly what you should do. Of course you should not imagine how you fail the test. But you can simply play the test situation out in your mind. Find yourself a few tasks from your maths book, choose a time limit and a goal, e.g. ‘I can do 70% of the tasks in that time’, and get started. This will give you a feeling of how the test is likely to go and you can mentally adjust to it.
But what can you do if the blackout sets in after all?
Of course you are never one hundred percent safe from a blackout. This fact makes it more important to deal with what really helps in such a moment:
- Take a deep breath: Place one hand on your stomach, exhale completely, breathe slowly deep into the stomach, repeat several times. This calms the pulse and you can think about what to do next.
- Admit that you have a blackout: Say to yourself: ‘Yes, I’m having a blackout now.’ If you’re at the front of the board you can use this strategy to gain time.
- Stop bad thoughts: Ban sentences like ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I’ll fail’ from your head. Instead, say, ‘I can still turn the tables!’
- Distract yourself: Turn your attention to another task first. Maybe the problem will solve itself.
- Think far ahead: Those who have to solve tasks orally can speak loudly to themselves. What did I do at home? Where did that get me? What else can I try? If the task does not work, there must be another approach. And that is what needs to be found.
- Last but not least: Learning from the blackout: The test is over and despite the tips you only managed half of the tasks? Cheer up! Now you know how it feels to have a blackout and how to avoid it next time.
Also interesting: A strange day at school. Will I manage to pass the maths test this time? Find out here.
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