If you’re preparing to take a test like the ACT or SAT, then you know this feeling: you’re cruising through a section feeling confident and sharp, and then, suddenly, you lose focus. You read a question but your eyes slide over the letters. Hold on a second … what is that asking? You read it again, but the words won't add up. You start to get nervous. What should you do?
In this situation, it’s tempting to try and think your way out of the problem. But first, you might want to experiment with a simpler approach: breathe.
We tend to think of tests as mental exercises. In so doing, we forget the fact that our minds are sitting on top of our bodies. And it turns out that the two are much more connected than we usually care to admit. So next time you lose your concentration try this: shut your eyes and take three deep breaths. After you breathe in, hold the breath for a second or two, then exhale slowly and evenly before beginning again.
Deliberate breathing exercises increase the oxygen flow to your brain, reduce anxiety, and give your mind a moment to regroup. If you can't focus try this exercise. Better yet, do it preemptively before beginning each section and see how it effects your performance.
-Matthew S, Instructor