‘Additional herbal supplements that may boost memory include green tea, rosemary and curcumin, although clinical studies confirming the cognitive benefits of these specific herbs are lacking,’ according to Ferreira.
ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS
‘Omega-3 fatty acids are an integral part of the brain and essential for its functioning as they help to keep the entire traffic pattern of thoughts, reactions and reflexes running smoothly and efficiently,’ says Ferreira.
Key omega-3 fatty acids contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). Both are found primarily in oily coldwater fish such as tuna, salmon and mackerel. A general dietary guideline is to eat at least two portions of oily fish per week. In capsule form, the US Food and Drug Administration advises one gram, or 1 000 mg, per day.
Low levels of certain B vitamins, such as niacin, thiamine and vitamin B12, may lead to cognitive impairment. Using brain imaging and blood plasma tests to understand how nutrients alter brain structure, research published in the medical journal Neurology reported some interesting findings. The authors noted that vitamins B, C, D and E ‘seemed to work together on some level’, and that these particular nutrients were associated with better cognitive function and larger brain volume. Omega-3 was also associated with the ability to do higher levels of complex or ‘executive’ thinking.
What does pay dividends is simply drinking water. It’s essential for efficient brain processing. ‘It has been shown that even a small amount of dehydration leads to confusion and problems with memory,’ says Betty Kovacs, Director of Nutrition for the New York Obesity Research Center Weight Loss Program.
A final point – don’t forget to learn while you study! Studying isn’t just about passing an exam. It’s a chance to learn things, some of which you’ll find out you actually care about. While it’s true that some of the information you have to absorb may not turn you on, try to look for interesting things to take away from every experience.
If you need help with a subject, or have questions you need answered, don’t be afraid to find a teacher or tutor before the exams. It will give you peace of mind, and you won’t spend the night before the exam with your fingers crossed, hoping that particular question won’t appear on the paper.
If you need a break after your exam, take it and schedule revision time for the next day’s exam later in the evening. Relaxation is important.
Cramming is a necessary evil sometimes, but take a five-minute break after each hour of study. Get up, move about, stretch your body, and maybe take a breath of fresh air.
Get to your exam on time. In fact, make sure you arrive in plenty of time. Arriving when the exam has already started will make you feel uncomfortable and stressed, and the glare you’ll get from the examiner will only make things worse.
Take advantage of any practice test, ask your teacher or tutor what they think might pop up in the paper, but don’t view any of these as a certainty. They are merely a hint as opposed to a fact.
Don’t assume that you’ll write your exam in the classroom you attend. They are often held elsewhere – in the hall, for example.
Get to bed early, instead of falling into the trap of spending the night in front of your books and developing ‘owl eyes’. By this stage you should be well prepared for your exam, and a good night’s sleep will leave you refreshed the next morning and ready to face the day.
… and have it ready ahead of time. Keep a good supply of paper, pens, rulers and a working calculator. Don’t find yourself rushing around the house on the morning of the exam, looking for a pen that works. Keep your bag and pencil case clean and well organised. This will help you arrive on time and unflustered.
Your clothes should be loose and comfortable. Wear a loose T-shirt if it’s a hot day, but make sure you pack a warm top or a cardigan, as the exam hall may be cooler than you were expecting.
Don’t forget to include a bottle of water, a snack, and some homeopathic calming tablets – and of course your glasses – if you need them.
Have a good breakfast. There may not be time for a snack before you enter the exam hall, and an empty stomach can make you feel tired, anxious and shaky.
… go to the bathroom!
All the best of good luck, and remember that the more prepared you are in advance, the less stress you will experience on the day.