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  • Writer's pictureShona

The top 7 things athletes have taught me about exam preparation

Having worked with a number of athletes and teams over the years i have come to note just how similar the preparation is for both athletes and students. Here are the top 7 things that students can do to replicate the success of athletes.

1. Goal Setting - Skills can be learned and improved: Skills can be improved through instruction and practice. Assess where your current strengths are. Which subjects do you find the easiest? Develop a plan for enhancing the specific skills/subjects that need improvement for the individual. Regularly review your progress and adjust the training plan where required. Set SMART long-term and short-term goals that are realistic, measurable, and time-oriented.

2. Replicate the performance arena: The environment in which you study should replicate the environment in which you will be doing the exam. Athletes often complete their training in similar conditions to those expected on their competition days. Gymnasts for example often train at the gym where music is playing in the background, with crowd noises also played over the AV system. There is no benefit of studying in a noisy environment if you will be completing an exam in silence. The brain uses the senses to induce memory and if you can study in like environments to those you will endure in your exam the brain will find it easier to recall the information

3. Hours of training and burnout: The brain only has a set capacity to take on new information. Just like any muscle if your overuse it you risk injury. Take regular breaks each hour to replenish and refuel eg 50 minutes of study and 10 minute break.

4. Time away from the competition arena: It is just as equally important to spend some time away from the books as it is on the books. Do things that help to reinvigorate you. This may be watching your favourite video, exercising, spending time with family and friends or anything else that allows you refuel your resilience bank

5. Importance of Sleep: Never underestimate the importance of sleep. The body and mind needs time to recharge. Practice good sleep hygiene practices such as winding down at least 30 minutes before you want to be asleep eg don't undertake a cognitive task during this time; sleep in something different to what you have worn to study, if you are awake for more than 10 minutes after trying to sleep or waking, get up and start the wind down process again.

6. Self-Talk: Successful athletes and students maintain their self-confidence during difficult times with realistic, positive self-talk. Talk to yourself the way you would to your best friend. Positive self-talk can be used to regulate thoughts, feelings and behaviours prior to and during competition. Successful athletes and students prepare themselves for competition by imagining themselves performing well in competition. They utilise all of their senses to imagine what the competition arena will be like, smell like, feel like, and look like. The best form of mental images are detailed, specific, and realistic.

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