If you are in college or plan on returning you may have mixed feelings about essay based tests. Sure they do offer you the opportunity to write down all you know rather than being tested on what you don’t know like a multiple choice test. However, one annoying part of essays is writing for extended periods of time and the accompanying hand cramps. This article explains how to best avoid cramps during the middle of your test so pay close attention.
Before Your Test
1. Find the Right Pen
This is going to be very important. The right pen can greatly add to or remove any cramping that you may experience. There are three main criteria that you need to have in mind when purchasing your pen. The first is a wide grip. When a pen has a wider grip your fingers do not have to close down as much, nor do they need to exert the same amount of pressure to hold the pen. The wide grip affords you a much natural hand position.
Along with the wide grip make sure that the pen you choose is very comfortable. People’s hands are all different, no surprise there. So it should not be a surprise that the comfort of pens will be different for different people. Try holding pens in the store before you buy them to make sure that you have found the right pen for you.
Some examples of comfortable pens may include: EZgrip, Pilot G2s, Pentel Energels, pilot’s Dr Grip, UGLee pens, or even purchasing add on grips to your normal pen. Shop around and find what you prefer.
After having spent this entire time finding the right pen you don’t want to have to do it again. If you can find a nicer pen that takes replaceable ink so you can use it over and over. If you prefer some reusable pens are also very comfortable. I personally preferred to find a great pen and use it through my college career; to each his own.
2. Learn How to Hold it
I am not referring to the exact finger position that you hold your pen in, people seem to get along fine in different ways. The important part of your grip is the pressure. This includes both the pressure of our fingers on the pen and the pressure of the pen on the paper. Make sure to hold the pen in a loose grip while you write. Practice holding the pen loosely, almost to the point where it will fall from your hand. The less pressure your fingers place on the pen the less stress the tendons of your hand will be.
Next make sure that you press lightly on the paper. Having the smooth pen as mentioned previously helps with this. If you take a pen in a loose grip and press hard on the paper with it your fingers will slip. To make up for this you end up tightening your grip and then we are back to the original problem. So make sure not only to have a loose grip but to press lightly on the paper. Stressing your hand less means less cramping.
During Your Test
Before you being to write and during the test there are a number of different stretches that you can do to reduce the cramping in your hand.
One set of exercises you can do is as follows:
-Hold out your arm in front of you with your palm facing down. Lift up wrist while letting your fingers dangle downward.
-Next reverse the motion by pressing your wrist downward and stretching up your fingers
-Relax your hand and slowly open and close it fully.
-If necessary repeat the motions.
2. Hold Your Pen Correctly!
I know you just read about holding your pen but it needs to be brought up again. During the test you will find that your concentration on the task at hand will cause you to forget about your grip until you realize you are cramping.
Every ten minutes or so, stop and look at your hand. If you are gripping to tightly drop the pen. If you need to stretch a little bit and then pick up the pen making sure that you are holding it correctly
If you catch yourself holding the pen tightly, drop it, stretch if necessary and then begin again.
3. Take Breaks
Space out breaks evenly during your test. For during a two hour test perhaps every fifteen minutes set your pen down for five seconds and just relax your hand. You can also throw some stretching in during these breaks. This break time does not need to be unproductive. In fact it can be highly beneficial if you use it as time to evaluate what you have wrote and what you plan to write. This will help you maintain a holistic view of your paper and help you write a better.
After Your Test
1. Stretch Again
Just like exercise most long term problem develop during the resting period. Make sure that you stretch the following day and maybe every day to prevent any cramping in the future. Other than that relax and celebrate, you just wrote a great essay!
2. Houston, we have a problem
If you are having a serious problem with cramping then talk with your professor about it. Some cramping issues can be hereditary while others are developed over time. It should not matter if you in a St. George college or at Oxford professors will want to help you succeed so speak with them after class and arrange for different accommodations that will allow you to take the test without causing yourself injury.