Learn this magic formula now and smash your exams

If you are a top grade student but think in a negative way about exams this is very likely to impact on your performance and stop you from getting the grades you’re working towards. Students that think positively about their skills and performance come exam time will do better. 

This is because they are more relaxed and are able to focus their attention on the questions in front of them. This is called a “flow state” or “being in the zone”. When you’re in this state of mind peak performance happens because thoughts of success or failure are suspended. This is the same state of mind that has enabled Rodger Federer to win 17 Grand Slams, Leicester City to overcome the odds en route to the title and Jessica Ennis-Hill to become the current Olympic Heptathlon champion on home turf. But you don’t have to be an athlete to get into flow, you’ll have achieved this through yoga, cooking, sketching, going for a run, dancing or writing; any hobby or activity where do you don’t have to consciously think about what you’re doing to succeed.


If you can get in to your flow state in your exam the words and equations will be flowing through your fingertips, through your pen and onto the paper enabling you to achieve the grade you’ve been working towards.

Get into your flow state, get better grades. It’s as simple as that and we have the magic formula for you. But before we get to that it’s important for you to know what could stop you from getting into the zone or accessing your flow state.

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The obstacles which stop you from performing in exams

1. Focusing on the grades and not on your learning

By putting pressure on yourself to reach the grades you’ve been targeted you are constantly focusing on results and not on your game. Think of exams as a game, you’re revising to continue to embed the information you have already learned. When it comes to the exam you’re are demonstrating your learning, so in the exam you need to focus on answering the questions which will give you the opportunity to share your knowledge. By focusing on demonstrating your knowledge you will focus more on the task in hand and not the result. This will help you to perform at your peak because you will get into your flow and not have in the back of your mind, is this getting me a B or an A?

2. Worrying or judging your abilities

When you are in your flow state you will become totally immersed in the task or question you are focusing on. Your brain is more relaxed in this state of mind and more likely to be able to successfully solve and work through complex questions because the information will be free-flowing. 

3. Expecting the exam paper to be too hard

If you expect the paper to be incredibly difficult it will be because in your mind you have already focused your state of mind to experience that exam with a negative filter. This negativity leading up to the exam will only lead to anxiety come the exam because throughout your revision you have told yourself this is going to be hard. Start telling yourself now that you have the skills to perform in this exam, anchor this optimism to your experience of doing past papers when feeling relaxed at home. 

Does any of this sound like you? If yes, it’s important you start training your mind, getting into your flow can take some practice, especially when there is pressure on your shoulders to perform. Here is the magic formula that will build your flow muscle ready for your exams.

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The magic formula to train your flow muscle and achieve top results

1. Mental rehearsal

What you need to start doing 
Start visualising your exam performance, everything from imagining the morning leading up to the exam, your breakfast, what you’ll be wearing, your journey, to sitting down in the exam and opening the paper. 
It’s definitely worth taking the time to sit in your school’s exam hall after school with a few past papers and just practice opening up the papers and developing a routine that works for you, whether that’s reading through the whole paper before answering the questions or starting with the first question and working through the paper that way. 

Why it works 
Your brain can’t actually tell the difference between acting out an activity or mentally and visually rehearsing the same activity. So the more you visualise your performance and become more relaxed in the exam hall, the more optimistic and relaxed you will be in this environment and throughout your exams

2. Expecting the unexpected

What you need to start doing 
Always have a plan B. First up, you’ve been thorough in your revision and you have the skills and knowledge to answer the questions so you will perform in your exams. But for peak performance you need to be able to tolerate uncertainty. 

So what happens if the exam hall changes at the last minute, your pen breaks, or a question you weren’t expecting comes up, or someone faints in the exam hall? Will they send you in to a panic?
By having a plan through anticipating these kinds of events you can retain your flow state. 

Why it works 
By visually and mentally rehearsing these kinds of events you will remain calm and confident in your exam. Having the power to tolerate uncertainty and remaining focused will help you to work through your exam anxiety free and ultimately perform better.


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exam hall

3. Keep cool

What you need to do 
Reflect on what triggers you to think negatively about your performance in exams. When you start thinking like this your emotions block your flow state. If you think you’re going to have a mind-blank or worry about this regularly the chances are it will happen because you have mentally rehearsed this. 

Why it works 
By learning how to manage your triggers you are going to be far better at dealing with them during your exams. Learning how to calm down and step outside of that anxiety bubble will give you more minutes in your exam to focus on answering the questions. If you’ve had some difficult moments in your mocks, see these as lessons and put together a strategy for dealing with this effectively now. 

Breathing techniques like 7/11 are a great way of calming and quieting the mind and allowing you to get back in to the zone. Now is the time to try out these kinds of techniques out so that you understand in advance how best your body relaxes. 

By using this magic formula to train your mind you will be able to: 

  • Feel confident in the days leading up to your exam
  • Access your flow state in your exams
  • Focus your attention on the content of the exam paper
  • Easily access the information and knowledge that you have learned
  • Regulate your stress and any emotion you feel during your exams
  • You’ll generally feel a lot happier and confident having developed healthy coping mechanisms to manage exam stress and worry.

What are you waiting for? Start training that flow muscle now! 

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In the past which exams have you achieved the flow state? Day to day which activities do you do which get you in the zone?