Finding it hard to focus on studying? Is your mind wandering as you prepare for your big test? Meditation may be the answer to your troubles. Mindfulness meditation can help quiet your mind and focus your attention on the present. It’s commonly used to manage stress, depression, and pain, and studies show it can be used to improve test scores as well.
Practicing meditation can lessen people’s habits of mind wandering, which can undermine performance on tests, through disrupting working memory capacity and intelligence. The working memory, an individual’s ability to retain information, is key for better test performance.
A recent NYT article discussed the results of a study done by Researchers in the department of psychological and brain sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
The study conducted by Mzarek et. al and published by the journal Psychological Science found that after a group of 48 UC undergraduates underwent a two-week intensive mindfulness program, they experienced less mind-wandering and increased their working memory capacity. This group also improved their performance on a reading comprehension portion of the GRE.
Within the program, the students learned the secular elements of mindfulness, such as straight posture, breathing exercises, and “minimizing the distracting quality of past and future concerns by reframing them as mental projections occurring in the present” (Mzarek et. al 2013).
After participating in these the program for two weeks, the results of mindfulness training group changed significantly: Prior to the mindfulness training, the average GRE verbal score was 460. Afterwards, it had increased to 520.
Professor Richard J. Davidson offered an analogy to explain the change in performance: “You can improve the signal-to-noise ratio by reducing the noise. Decreasing mind-wandering is doing just that.”