Tips for maintaining concentration

Jun 2015
When you are in the exam room, be prepared for movement around you and don't look at it.

As exams are in full swing, it is often a concern that students will not be able to maintain their concentration for the duration. Concentrating on one subject for a prolonged period of time can be difficult, particularly when it is a requirement exam after exam after exam.

Here are a few tips to help:

Find a revision spot
Finding a place to revise is so important for prolonging concentration. Make sure you find somewhere that is comfortable, with a good sized table to spread out all of your books. Find somewhere that is the right temperature, with good lighting and where you aren't going to be disturbed. Make sure your friends and/or family know that when you are in your revision spot, you aren't to be disturbed.

Get a good night's sleep
Making sure you are well rested is extremely important during exams. Whilst you may feel the need to cram the night before, you will be far more alert and able to recall information after a restful sleep to recharge the batteries.

Learn to turn a blind eye
When you know you have to sit still and concentrate on one task for an extended period it is easy to find reasons to be distracted. When you enter the exam hall or sit down to revise be aware of all the things you might hear or that might distract you and learn to turn a blind eye. If you have a younger sibling who arrives home at 4.30pm, you know the door is going to slam or the TV is going to start up so you don't need to react to it. When you are in the exam room, people will be asking to leave to go to the toilet or requesting more paper, be prepared for movement around you and don't look at it.

Remove distractions
Similarly, if you know your friend is sitting a different exam to you today and will finish at 3pm, put your phone out of sight so you are not distracted by a call, text or email from them. Make sure your phone is on silent, your internet browser is closed and your emails are not set up to alert you. Don't give yourself extra reason to lose focus.

Make a plan
Don't sit down faced with the grand total of all the subjects you need to study for, with a view to 'revise', because you will procrastinate and be overwhelmed by the task. Make a plan. Consider which exams you have next and which need the most work and schedule your time. Make this schedule realistic with regular breaks. If you plan to study biology for eight hours, you risk spending seven of those working up to it. Set yourself hour-long goals and then schedule a 15-minute break to take a walk, make a drink, reply to a text or check your emails. And then back to it!

Allow downtime
As important as it is to maintain focus, it is also important to allow time to rest and relax. If you have an exam finishing at 4pm, and then another exam at 9am the next day, don't try and walk out of the exam and go straight back to study. You won't be able to do it. Give yourself an hour or two to do something else. A quick game of football or visit to the local swimming pool will enable you to let your mind stray in order to allow it to regain focus later.

Keep your blood flowing
If you are sat at a desk for an extended period of time, gravity will cause blood to pool in the lower half of your body and will not push as much oxygen to your brain, where it helps improve concentration. Make sure you take regular breaks to stand up and walk around to up your blood flow and rejuvenate your focus.

Good luck to all of you sitting exams at the moment.