There’s a lot more to preparing for an exam than just studying. Studying might play a bigger role in exams that test theoretical knowledge. However, for aptitude exams such as DCAS exams, taking care of your brain and working on your fundamental mental abilities is far more important.
Here are seven tips that can help improve your performance in any exam.
Target The Abilities the Exam Will Test
Different exams need different mental abilities. History exams need memory and recollection, math exams need problem-solving skills, and aptitude tests need cognition. Some exams such as the NYC Sanitation Exam even test your physical abilities. Knowing what fundamental skills are needed in the exam can help you better prepare your mind and your body for the exam.
Depending on your exam, some of these tips might be more applicable to you than others. For example, attempting sample questions is far more important for the FDNY Exam than making a preparation timeline.
Make a Preparation Timeline
If you’re someone who struggles with procrastination, making a preparation timeline can be immensely helpful. Here’s one popular way to make a preparation timeline.
- Calculate the number of days you have to prepare for the exam using a calendar.
- Figure out which concepts, and skills account for how much on the exam. For example, logical reasoning questions account for more than 60% of the Suffolk Police exam while math questions account for only less than 10%.
- Allocate the available number of days to different concepts and skills proportionately.
You can allocate a few more days to skills and concepts you’re weaker at and take some days away from those you’re good at. However, it’s best not to spend so much time on unimportant areas that you have none left to prepare for the major ones. That would defy the entire purpose of creating a timeline.
Attempt Sample Problems
It’s easy to get overly confident in your abilities and think you don’t need to prepare for the “easy” stuff. However, you don’t know what you don’t know till you test yourself. For example, some people practice math problems by just looking at the solutions. This is faster than actually solving the problems. However, they often miss some steps and only realize it when they get stuck somewhere on the solution.
No matter what exam you’re preparing for, the only way to measure your competency is by attempting sample questions. If you’re preparing for an aptitude test such as the upcoming Sanitation Exam 2060 DCAS, solving sample problems is also a great way to prepare for the exam.
Avoid Processed and Sugary Foods
It’s also important to optimize your body’s ability to prepare for exams and improve your core mental abilities for exam day. Few people realize this but eating processed and sugary foods can affect your brain’s ability to prepare for an exam. There are several reasons for this.
Processed and sugary foods are high in simple carbohydrates. These short-chain carbs get quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and spike your blood sugar. In response, the body produces a lot of insulin. The insulin puts all the sugar into your cells but now you have no glucose left in your blood. You experience this as a sugar crash. Continuously eating and crashing can disturb your prep.
Research has shown that ketones (from fat burning) are a superior source of energy for the brain than glucose from carbs. When you eat simple carbs and your insulin spikes, your body doesn’t make any ketones and your body has no choice but to use glucose for energy.
Get Your Eight Hours
Sleep is vital for almost all the brain’s basic functions. When you’re preparing for an exam, you’re saving the lessons in your limited short-term memory. When you go to sleep, the brain sorts all the memories you made during the day and stores them in your long-term memory.
Dreams play a role in learning too. When you’re asleep, your brain simulates your memories and goes through them repeatedly to gain new insight from the information you collect during the day. This is why you’re often told to sleep on a problem. This is also why so many scientists got some of their best ideas when they were asleep.
Not getting enough sleep deprives you of all these benefits. You find it harder to recall what you learned and you don’t get deep insight into your lessons. Sleep deprivation also affects your working memory, which is essential for high-level processing.
Thanks to social media, even adults today have the attention span of ten-year-olds. Having a short attention span is bad for when you’re preparing for an exam. You find it hard to focus on concepts for long enough to grasp them. You waste time on unimportant side tasks only to realize at the end of the day that you haven’t achieved anything.
According to the modular model of the mind, it’s not your conscious self that disturbs you by all those distracting thoughts while you’re studying. Instead, it’s the different modules of the brain trying to get the attention of the conscious. As a famous Buddhist saying goes, “Thoughts think for themselves.”
Meditation is one of the easiest and safest ways you can improve your attention span. Meditation trains your conscious brain to dismiss disturbing thoughts as soon as they emerge. Practicing meditation for even twenty minutes a day can improve your focus for the entire day.
Enroll in a Preparation Class
At the end of the day, the best way to actively train yourself for all the skills needed in an exam is by joining a class and working with professional instructors. If you’re preparing for a civil service exam, we can help.
At Civil Service Success, we’ve been hosting NYC Sanitation exam prep classes, Nassau and Suffolk Police exam prep classes, and NYC Firefighter exam prep classes for over 45 years. We’re currently enrolling for the Sanitation Exam 2060 DCAS preparation classes that give you all the skills you need for the exam.
Want to ace your next civil service exam? Get in touch now!