By the end of this blog post you will know how to reduce and even eliminate your Test Taking Anxiety, the Stress that clouds your thinking and slows you down going through a passage. It’s the same thing that keeps you from figuring out which of those two answers you’ve gotten down to is the right one. Anxiety is a nasty business. Once it hooks in it just builds and gets worse. You want to get the highest MCAT score you can, and there is no reason that you have to let anxiety or test taking stress bog you down
In the thousands of survey responses that we’ve gotten from students in our research, Stress or Exam Taking Anxiety, ranks a close second to Reading Speed as the biggest challenge that students studying for the CARS Exam face. But there is a scientifically proven method of reducing and even eliminating it. It’s one word.
I know, it sounds weird, even cult like. No, I’m not wearing a turban and have a crystal ball in front of me or a magic wand. Nor is this some fad from Southern California. (Sorry, students from SC, but you’ve got to admit that some of what comes out from there strikes us Eastern Types as a little weird).
Meditation is one of the most intensely studied areas of neuroscience and there have been over 10,000 peer reviewed studies from such places as Harvard, Stanford, UC San Francisco Medical School and other institutions. The results are dramatic over time, and if you want to explore some of the data and the science behind it, just watch this video after you go through this email.
I was skeptical about meditation myself until a friend from Yale Medical School wrote a book about it. I’ve been using it ever since. After you read this Email, you might want to see what one of our student’s experience was. He increased his verbal score by 5 points and meditation had a lot to do with it. His response is pretty typical.
Before I show you how to meditate, let me briefly explain the science behind it so you understand how critical Stress/Anxiety Reduction is in getting through CARS Passages quickly and comprehensively, and accurately answering questions.
Here’s what happens in your brain as stress rises. First, you start secreting increasing amounts of epinephrine which starts to interfere with your neurotransmitters. This is not good. It’s like putting water in your gas tank. The second thing that happens is that it starts to interfere with frontal cortex function. Your limbic system becomes more engaged. This survival mechanism always overcomes your rational ability. This can have a real impact on your ability to process information efficiently with a real negative result on your MCAT scores.
Think of it this way: if you’re crossing a street and you see a truck coming toward you at 60 miles an hour, your frontal cortex is not going to start analyzing the rate of speed, distance covered per second, and how much time you have to escape. Your limbic system is going to kick in and override your frontal cortex. You get a rush of epinephrine, and you just run--No Thinking!
The same thing happens in varying degrees when you get stressed doing a CARS Passage. There’s some excess epinephrine starting to gum up your neurotransmitters and your limbic system starts competing with your frontal cortex. You probably won’t have a total shut down like with a truck, but this tug of war is going to slow you down and cloud your thinking. What’s even worse, once there is the hormone release, it’s going to stay in your bloodstream for a while. You can’t just turn it off. It’s like a hangover, and you know how much fun that is.
Now that you know a little bit about the science, let’s look at how to meditate, when to do it and for how long.
For meditation to be really effective, you have to do it twice a day, once in the morning when you get up and once in the late afternoon before dinner. (There’s a sound file to take you through a meditation attached at the bottom of this email, but keep on reading.) It’s best to do it in a darkened room. Sit up straight and relax and close your eyes. Take a series of slow deep breaths, in and out and just relax. Breath slowly and deeply for a minute and just be aware of your breath until your mind is clear of any thoughts. And then just breath. If a thought comes into your mind, just put your focus back on your breath until it disappears, and then just let your mind be empty. It’s that simple.
Just keep on doing that for 12 minutes the first week, 15 minutes the second week, and then work up to 20 minutes twice a day if you can. I know that this sounds like a lot of time, but it’s an excellent investment. Your increase in clarity and efficiency, and your increase in deep restful sleep will more than make up for it. If you really get caught for time, do it for 15 minutes twice a day.
I’ve attached a sound file for you that will take you through a meditation with the use of what is called a mantra, a seed sound. This is not only good for clearing away any thoughts, but there is also an emerging body of research that suggests that sounds like this can stimulate certain brain centers used in cognition.
But remember, this only works if you do it twice daily and consistently. In a week’s time, you’ll be amazed at the results. We’ve been using this meditation combined with a whole series of other neuroscience exercises tied to our teaching materials in our courses, and our research has shown that these exercises alone can account for a 2 point increase in your CARS score. Focus and mental clarity are critical components of increasing reading speed and comprehension.
In short, if you want to get faster and clearer in your reading of CARS Passages, meditate every day, twice a day, without fail.
In our next Email we begin the first part of a two part series on how to find key ideas quickly. Don’t forget to send me an email if you have any comments on this. I read all of them.
Until then, work hard, work smart. Excellence matters!
PS Don’t forget to watch the videos. They’re really informative.
PPS The cost of the meditation training from the T M Foundation is now over $1,000. Here, you get it for free without all the “guru” stuff.You can thank me by meditating every day, twice a day at least 15 minutes.
You can thank me by meditating every day, twice a day at least 15 minutes. You can thank me by meditating every day, twice a day at least 15 minutes.