Using Mental Rehearsal to Imagine Your Ideal Exam Performance

The wonderful thing about how your brain learns is that when you practice something for real and then practice it again in your imagination, much of the same brain processing occurs. The only difference is, when you mentally rehearse you’re not activating the brain processes that move your physical body.

Mental rehearsal gives you an opportunity to rapidly improve your learning ability — particularly when you have to do a performance of any kind. As an exam is a performance, it’s really helpful to use mental rehearsal to imagine your ideal exam performance because often, you don’t have enough opportunities to do the actual real-life practice of undertaking the exam.

Here’s how it works. Think about all the common challenges you may face during an exam and make a list. These may include: problems getting started, problems with concentration, being easily distracted, or exam nerves. Once you identify the common challenges, think about you reacting to this challenge in the most ideal way.

For example, you have a problem with anxiety after starting an exam. You answer the first question then immediately start doubting your answer. This sends you into an anxiety attack, which affects your ability to answer the remaining questions. To combat this common challenge, create a recording you can use to help mentally rehearse seeing yourself answering the exam questions with a feeling of confidence. Use this recording and begin practicing in your mind.

Here are three steps to help you mentally rehearse for your exam:

  1. Identify any potential problem and think about how you would like to act if it was fixed.

  2. Write a positive statement (an affirmation), that helps you visualize doing the ideal response. Your statement needs to be in the first-person and in present tense, as if you’re already acting out your ideal response.

  3. Read aloud, or record and listen to, the statement repeatedly. Using the words to generate a mental movie of you doing the positive actions and feeling this positive way. The words are not the key. It’s the pictures and feelings that imprints your memory, so use descriptive emotive words.

Imagining your ideal exam performance repeatedly is such an easy, yet incredibly powerful technique to help you overcome many challenges you may face both preparing for and undertaking an exam. For guidance on writing and using a mental rehearsal script, check out this recording.

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