Visualize Your Classroom Could Aid Exam Preparation

Empty lecture classroom
Photo by Changbok Ko on Unsplash

Counseling Center Helps Finals Week Focus

Posted April 29, 2020

Taking online finals may require picturing your classroom as part of exam preparation, according to Tom Allen, Ph.D. with the Counseling Center at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

“The goal now is to create the conditions that allow for maximum memory retrieval, critical thinking, and, in general, an appropriate dose of stress to increase motivation –  not too much, but also not too little,” Allen said.

As online courses continue into Finals Week due to COVID-19 social distancing, Allen said the loss of “state-dependent learning” could impact recall.

State-dependent memory can assist learning by encoding information based on surroundings. Retrieval of information can be better when it draws upon similar cues.

“These are things such as where a student was located in a classroom, the student’s mood while they learned the information, and even sensory things such as lighting, smells, sounds,” Allen said.

To prepare, students should take a bit of added time to mentally place themselves back in that initial learning environment.

“Given that students will be testing in new spaces, it can be useful to take five to ten minutes before an exam to pause, take five even breathes and begin to visualize their former classroom,” he said.

For example, students could visualize the doors that they opened, hallways that they moved through, the classroom, where they were located within the classroom, and what they felt or experienced when they were in that class.

“This grounding exercise may help to moderate the impact of state-dependent learning and boost memory recall,” he said.

Another helpful pre-test aid is slow, deep breathing to reduce stress and stimulate the parasympathetic system which triggers a slower heart rate and calms that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling.

“Taking a pause to practice some deep breathing and develop some parasympathetic tone can go a long way if an individual is experiencing a level of stress that is negatively impacting their ability to take the exam,” Allen said.

Counseling Services Continue

Allen said tele-mental health services for Minnesota State Mankato students will continue through Finals Week and well into the summer.

The Counseling Center is scheduling weekly workshops, psycho-educational programs and individual counseling.

For the remainder of the Spring Semester the Center offers open offerings related to anxiety, academic distress and self-care strategies.  

Among upcoming sessions are three Finals Week related programs on Monday, May 4.

Here are the calendar offerings:

  • Tips for Working & Being a Student from Home (Finals Week)
  • Finishing Strong drop-in session

An online workshop addressing anxiety is planned for Wednesday, May 6.

Online Counseling Center sessions through May 1

Online Counseling Center sessions through May 4-8

Students can also schedule a screening appointment at or by calling 507-389-1455.

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