Mindset Shaping and Goal Setting for Exams

by | Sep 13, 2023 | 0 comments

“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re rightHenry Ford

This is a belief that many people live by, and it all comes down to your mindset. If you believe you can do something or achieve a goal, more often than not you will be successful. The opposite is also true. If you tell yourself, you can’t do something it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Believing in yourself, and having confidence in your capability to do something, can often be the tipping point between success and failure. When it comes to exams, having a positive mindset before you sit the exam will help you feel at ease and more able to approach the exam effectively.

Mindsets are powerful beliefs. There are two types of mindsets, the Fixed Mindset and the Growth Mindset. Carol Dweck, in her book “Mindset” says a fixed mindset is essentially a belief that your intelligence, talents and other abilities are set in stone. A person with a fixed mindset believes that they are born with a particular set of skills and that they can’t change them. A growth mindset on the other hand is the belief that a person can develop their talents and achieve their goals through hard work, effective strategies, and support from others.

To achieve a growth mindset in the world of education some think you just need to put in extra effort with your studies. While this may be the case there are other factors that need to be considered.

Achieving a growth mindset requires students to try new learning strategies.   If a particular learning strategy such as re-reading your lecture notes is not working for you, you need to try other strategies such as self-testing and quizzing. Albert Einstein’s famously said that insanity “is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Simply put, if you are not progressing with your studies using one learning technique, try out others to see what works for you.

Getting feedback from your lecturers on your progress is very important. This might be formal feedback through practicing exam questions and mock papers or informal feedback. Feedback can give you clear direction on how to improve your learning.

Mistakes are unavoidable when learning. They are the most useful way to learn. If you have a fixed mindset, you may be unwilling to investigate the mistake. This can be down to your attitude – “if I don’t understand the topic after reading the notes three times, I will never know it”. If you don’t investigate your mistakes, then no learning takes place.

A person with a growth mindset will investigate their mistakes and will learn from their mistakes. It is normal to feel demotivated, stressed, and anxious when you make mistakes especially when you are self-testing or quizzing in preparation for the exam.

The key is to re-frame your thoughts and create positive prompts. Rather than telling yourself you have no understanding of the subject, you could say, “I am not there yet in my understanding of this subject and mistakes are an opportunity for learning”.

By changing how you think and re-framing your self-talk you can change your mindset. Let’s have a look at some Growth Mindset Statements:

  • I will try new learning strategies
  • I relish a challenge
  • My hard work will pay off
  • I am not there yet in my studies. I am on the right path.
  • I have a positive attitude towards my learning.
  • “Failure is success in progress” (Albert Einstein)

Goal Setting

Setting realistic and achievable goals is a great way of using the growth mindset to overcome challenges. There are two types of goals for academic success, performance goals and learning goals. For example, aiming for 70% in a Financial Accounting exam is a performance goal. Being able to understand double entry is a learning goal. People set both performance and learning goals. Performance goals will help you with the short-term comprehension of a topic.  Learning goals will lead to greater understanding and performance.

As you navigate through your studies, using the SMART Framework to set learning goals for yourself can be useful. A SMART goal is a goal that is:

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely

Setting SMART goals means you can clarify your objectives, focus your attention, use your time and resources productively as well as increasing the chances of achieving your goals.

To summarise,

By adopting a growth mindset, believing in yourself, and having confidence in your abilities is a great path to achieving your learning goals. By making mistakes and investigating why you are making those mistakes you are learning. You will remember your mistakes far more than you remember your successes.