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Have you ever found yourself in the following situation: you’re sitting at the exam hall in front of a blank piece of paper and desperately trying to think of something to write, but nothing comes to your mind? That’s what psychologists call a “mental block”.

As a language learner, you risk experiencing a mental block during your language test. To overcome that unpleasant situation, you should learn how to reduce your stress levels and maintain concentration during the exam.

In this article, we will discuss five effective ways on how to get around mental blocks and complete all the tasks successfully.

Use your body to make your brain calm down

Each of our body systems are interconnected and dependent on each other. So if you want to get around mental blocks, you should prepare for the exam not only mentally, but also physically. Here are six tips that may help you to pass the test:

  • Eat a healthy meal before the exam. Processed foods, artificial sweeteners, carbonated soft drinks, chocolate, and junk foods may boost your stress levels, so you should avoid consuming them.
  • Don’t forget to drink enough water before the exam and feel free to take water into the examination hall. Scientists say that water consumption may alleviate anxiety and may have a physiological effect on thinking functions that lead to improved exam performance.
  • Make a smile. Scientific studies suggest that holding a smile on one’s face helps to lower heart rates and to get rid of anxiety.

Tips on how to calm your brain

  • Practice progressive muscle relaxation. Clench both fists, and try to squeeze them as hard as you can for several seconds. Then release all the tension in your fingers, your hands, and your arms. This simple exercise will send a message to your brain to calm down.
  • Get a good night’s sleep before the test. It will boost your brain power and concentration. 
  • Don’t skip the workouts. Regular physical exercises will help you to reduce stress levels, and it will be easier for you to overcome a mental block on the day of the exam.
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Change your attitude towards the possible failure 

What makes you feel anxious? What thoughts scare you the most?

If your biggest fear is the fear of failure, you should understand one important thing. If it happens that you fail your TOEFL or DELE test, the world will not end. No matter what the results of your exam will be, the grass will be green, the sun will be hot, and most importantly, your family will be alive and in good health.

It’s obvious that no one likes to lose. And if you have been studying hard for a few months, it’s natural that you want to pass the test. But the truth is that nothing terrible will happen if you fail, because you will have another chance to pass the test in the future.

“To overcome the mental block, you should permit yourself to fail. If you stop considering an exam failure as the worst thing that can happen in your life, you will get rid of anxiousness,” says Timothy Williams, a certified translator at TheWordPoint.

Calm down your nerves before the exam starts

The key problem is that students tend to get nervous long before the exam starts. And at the moment they enter the exam hall, their stress levels exceed all the possible limits, and their minds go blank.

If you don’t want to fail the exam because of high stress levels, you should calm down your nerves before you enter the hall. Here are a few tricks that may help you:

  • Stay away from fellow students who express negativity and look nervous. Anxiety is contagious, so once you start talking to someone who feels anxious, you will also feel anxious.
  • Listen to your favorite songs. It will help you to get rid of anxious thoughts and will improve your mood.
  • If your stress level is rising, and you feel like you are losing control over your thoughts, try to distract yourself. Watch cat videos on YouTube, call your friend – do whatever helps your mind to unwind.
  • Show up at least 10 minutes before the exam will start. You should have enough time to prepare yourself mentally and look around.

Challenge your “anxious” thinking 

If you think about something bad, it doesn’t mean that it’s true or that it will actually happen. For instance, if you believe in the statement “I will fail this exam”, it doesn’t mean you will fail. 

Learn how to challenge anxious thinking

If you tend to think negatively and have a feeling like something bad will definitely happen, it means you fall into so-called thinking traps. Here are a few examples of thinking traps that may contribute to your anxiety:

  • Mind-reading trap: “My friends will think I’m stupid.”
  • Over-generalization trap: “I never pass tests on the first attempt.”
  • Fortune-telling: “I know I’ll make lots of mistakes.”

To overcome a mental block, you should replace your anxious thoughts with more realistic ones. You can do it in the following way. Write down the thoughts that drive anxiety and then tweak these thoughts to make them sound more real and positive. 

Let’s consider an example to make it clear. Let’s say your “anxious” though sounds like this:

“My vocabulary is weak, and I’m terrible at tests. I’m going to fail my DELE exam. I’ll never achieve my goal!”

Your realistic thought should sound like this:

“I’m not fluent in Spanish. However, I find it easy to read books in Spanish. I don’t know whether I know enough words to complete the test, but I will try my best tomorrow. If I fail the exam, I will pass it on the second attempt, and sooner or later, I will achieve my goal.”

Avoid “Cramming”

It’s impossible to remember a thousand new words and dozens of grammar rules in a day. So please, don’t even try it to do it. You should spend the day before the exam on revising what you have already learned rather than studying new topics.

If you don’t want to lower your chances to pass the test, don’t cram the night before your test.  The “cramming” may overload your brain and cause mind blanks during the exam. You don’t want that happen to you, do you?

In case if you have just a few days or a few hours to prepare for your exam, do the following:

Use a systematic approach to refresh your memory. For instance, use a verb tense revision chart or worksheet to remind yourself of what you have learned about all the verb tenses.

Make a list of your common mistakes and revise rules and topics that will help you to avoid these mistakes when you’re taking an exam. For example, if you tend to misuse modal verbs, you should revise grammar rules related to this topic.

Once again, don’t try to learn each and every topic you haven’t learned yet. Trying to memorize everything, you will remember nothing. Better choose the most important topic and focus on it.


All the tips given in this article are safe and effective, so feel free to use them.

And keep in mind that being well prepared for the test is the best way to reduce anxiety. The more you will study, the better results you will get.


Erica Sunarjo is is a professional writer at BestWritersOnline. She is highly enthusiastic about all things Big Data, IT and Artificial Intelligence, and she shares informative resources to help businesses and consumers take advantage of the latest technologies.