Tag Archives: chunking

From Exam Anxiety to A First in Law and a job at the UN!

I met Sarah when she was studying law at the University of Glasgow. She was a bright student, was respected by her teachers and did well in class but she was terrified of exams. She felt overwhelming pressure when it came to studying, let alone sitting the exams and her exam anxiety was getting the better of her.

Sarah was referred to me by a friend of her parents who had been to one of my courses. I took her through everything we cover in the Pass Perfection series. We started with relaxation. When people are in the frame of mind that Sarah was, they can find it almost impossible to relax. They also give themselves such a hard time about not performing well that the idea of taking some time out to clear your mind and relax causes panic and brings on even more stress.

This way of thinking is counterproductive, especially when it comes to studying and can add to your exam anxity. That's exactly why you need to take some time out to reset your way of thinking. Taking just five minutes to relax can save hours of wasted effort. What's the point of trying to study for ages if you just get worked up and don't retain any of the information? Using simple hypnosis relaxation techniques, Sarah was soon able to relax. This was something she hadn't been able to do for months and she was really physically worked up so taking just a little bit of time to unwind was a massive benefit to her.

Next we tackled the feeling of being overwhelmed by breaking up each task into smaller elements. This is something we call “chunking”, an important part of Pass Perfection. You can read more about this on Amanda’s blog post and find out all about how to use it yourself it in the video series.

Then we worked on her ability to absorb and retain information. Memory techniques are pretty simple tools to grasp but they make a profound different to study.

And throughout we kept the goal in mind. She not only wanted to pass, but pass well.

I'm delighted to say that Sarah got a first class honours degree and now holds a position in the international law team at the United Nations! Through applying the elements I teach in Pass Perfection she learned to relax, overcame her anxiety, reduced her stress levels, was able to study and perform well in her exams.

Looking back on the experience she told us that she had really wanted to do well, but felt so overwhelmed that she didn't know where to start.

“I knew I was capable of more, but couldn't see how I could get there. I would spend hours staring at my notes and felt like nothing was retained at all. Brian's teaching helped me so much. I couldn't have done it alone but with his help I achieved everything I wanted to, and more! I can't recommend his teaching enough. Buy Pass Perfection. I would have loved to have something like it when I was studying."

From Mind to Mellow: What I’ve Learned From Pass Perfection

We've recently been working with Brian Costello on his new Pass Perfection series which is a series of videos designed to help with managing stress and improving your study techniques in the build up to your exams. It is always the way with these things, that you begin to imagine how useful all these tips would've been when you were studying but actually, I've found myself already using some of the techniques just to manage my stress at work and focus on tasks.

Brian started talking about the feeling of being overwhelmed by everything and not being able to figure out where would be best to start, I could identify with this straight away – both when I was at University but also on particularly busy days at work. Brian describes how complex the brain is and working to its strengths so for example, break everything down into chunks, or what Brian calls 'chunking', something that our brain already does subconsciously. It seems like such an obvious approach – break everything down – but actually when you are aware of how your brain should be acting, you can almost pull it into focus when you need it to be. I've found myself working with shorter lists, smaller notepads and breaking down text into bullet points and it does work.

For example, I personally find reading lots of text on a screen overwhelming. I love to read but I often avoid reading online and will print things off. Since working on Pass Perfection, I've found myself taking emails into a separate document and breaking it up into action points. It doesn't seem like much but before 'chunking', I was spending time reading over the email, maybe several times, and finding that rather than take in the information, I'd begin to stress out about what was being asked of me, regardless of the task. Now I find myself working my way through the task methodically and more efficiently because it's almost like by breaking it up, I'm processing each chunk at a time.

Alongside the video series, we also put together an audio accompaniment to help with sleep after studying or before an exam. Again, it seems like a given – you need a good sleep to perform at your best for an exam but it's easier said than done. Never mind the slackers burning the midnight oil as they try to cram as much in as possible – sometimes it's just impossible to switch off from all the butterflies in your stomach and information swirling around your brain.

I'm definitely one of those people that can lie awake all night questioning everything over and over, over-analysing situations and worrying about everything. I sleep lightly and often have a broken sleep so I've found working with my breathing has helped massively with this. By breathing slowly, mimicking your breathing during sleep, and communicating the inhale and exhale to yourself internally, this can really help with getting back to sleep. I've tried it a few times lately. I had a friend staying and normally I would get up to do something to tire me out and take my mind off of it like read a book but I didn't want to wake him. I tried the breathing technique and the next thing I know, it's the next morning!

I think often the key to getting the best out of your brain is by understanding it, understanding how it works and more specifically, the way your brain has chosen to work. The more I learn about myself and understand how my brain likes to work, the more I feel I'm ticking off my to do list each day.