What is the best approach to acing an exam such as the SAT, ACT or GED? According to research conducted by Kristina Lerman, that is to take “power naps” because they improve a test-taker’s performance. Lerman is the principal scientist of the USC Information Sciences Institute and an associate professor for research at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Computer Science Department.
Lerman, along with her associates Nathan Hodas, Stephen J. Young and Jacob Hunter analyzed the 2.8 million attempts of over 180,000 responders to approximately 6,000 GED, SAT and ACT test questions found in the website Grockit.com. The researchers took time to evaluate the tendencies of the participants during the intervals when they stopped and started to solve the pertinent problems and learn from their mistakes while taking the exams. Published in the Journal of Computational Social Science, Lerman and her associates aimed to exhibit the factors at play when performing to take an exam.
The concept at the focus in Lerman’s study is about the energy metabolism in the brain wherein it puts emphasis on the idea of resource depletion. According to the premise of the researchers, the act of answering questions in exams causes a depletion of the brain’s resources that are necessary for effective performance. In their paper entitled “Model of Cognitive Dynamics Predicts Performance on Standardized Tests”, it was cited that answering questions on a standardized exam impairs one’s performance and their ability to figure out the correct answers.
Prolonged mental effort, in fact, cause further depletion of cognitive resources as the test-takers render more focus on their task.
The authors of this study strongly suggest that learners should “take breaks” so that their performance can recover, especially as it tends to decline throughout the duration of their test-taking. Furthermore, one should also resume their task by doing easier ones first and proceed on to those that are more challenging. Test takers should initially warm up by doing easier tasks as they proceed with their test-taking.
The energy in the brain is being expended as somebody thinks. As you think, your brain’s resources become depleted, making this endeavor harder. Along the course of your thinking task (especially when taking an exam), your brain is inclined to get tired, resulting in you making mistakes, Lerman says.
The predilection goes that test-takers are bound to make mistakes at the end of their exam, especially because their brains are tired than during the beginning of their test. It’s the same thing when carrying out with physical activity, such as skiing. Doing one last run is apt to cause an individual to get hurt. This happens because their body is tired of their physical exertion while skiing. The same dynamics take place while thinking, that’s why it makes sense to take breaks when in the middle of doing the sustained mental effort.