I can't think on my feet. Anyone got advice how I can improve?

Apr 26, 2009
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I have always been a good student. Currently have 3.9x GPA and have finished all my pre-reqs. The thing is that even though I am smart when I am put on pressure I ALWAYS blank out. Like if I was put in front of a class or if a teacher called me I could never come up with the answer to the question. But a few seconds or minutes after the attention is off of me I sudden know the answer. I hate that this happens to me. It is frustrating that I have so much knowledge but I can't even communicate it. I feel like there is no point in learning it if I can't even express what I learn. Like what is the point of having a 4.0 brain but talk like a 2.0 student. I am scared that this can seriously affect my interviewing skills which will prevent me from getting into med school or any job what so ever. Anyone have advice on what I can do to improve myself? Or do I just put myself on spot until I can adapt to it?
 

AbbyNormal

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How do you do when in discussions with other students or study groups?
 
Mar 11, 2010
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Sounds like stage fright. Join a Toastmaster or debate team at your school.
 
Apr 26, 2009
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How do you do when in discussions with other students or study groups?
If I know them and feel comfortable, I can usually lead the discussion. But if it a group of random people, I usually blank out and just stay silent the whole time.
 
Apr 26, 2009
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This problem has really affected me and my old job. I used to work in an office and I have realized that this problem has given me trouble with talking on the phone and remembering what people say. It is like everything is too fast and I just want it to slow down so my brain can catch up.
 

riverjib

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I have always been a good student. Currently have 3.9x GPA and have finished all my pre-reqs. The thing is that even though I am smart when I am put on pressure I ALWAYS blank out. Like if I was put in front of a class or if a teacher called me I could never come up with the answer to the question. But a few seconds or minutes after the attention is off of me I sudden know the answer. I hate that this happens to me. It is frustrating that I have so much knowledge but I can't even communicate it. I feel like there is no point in learning it if I can't even express what I learn. Like what is the point of having a 4.0 brain but talk like a 2.0 student. I am scared that this can seriously affect my interviewing skills which will prevent me from getting into med school or any job what so ever. Anyone have advice on what I can do to improve myself? Or do I just put myself on spot until I can adapt to it?
I know how you feel! I sit up front, and in smaller lectures, the professor overhears me answering questions correctly and tells me to speak up. I do, but sound less confident and kind of stupid, even though I've answered a tough question correctly.

All you can do is practice. I've done research for four years and given over 10 power point presentations. I do a MUCH better job at national conferences than in a class of 15-60 students!!! I think it's normal for those of us with stage fright. If I'm comfortable with someone or a group, I can talk endlessly, but I freeze when there's someone I don't know. Seriously. I presented in a large lecture hall of mostly grad students and professionals, and sounded okay (I'll never be a great speaker, period. I'm fine with that). But I presented the same talk in another "anonymous" room of professionals when my PI brought his 10 and 13-year-old kids, and I stammered! Unless you instinctively understand this, you'll never really understand this :)

But my first presentation was not a presentation in the real sense. It was me, my PI, and 10 grad/undergrad students PRACTICING. I sounded like a 6-year-old who was incapable of reading big words! In all fairness, now I can speak extemporaneously without looking too much at my slides. I've taught a few classes, and gotten comfortable. But public speaking won't be my greatest skill until I'm 80 and truly shed the last care I ever had about anyone's opinion...if that ever happens :)
 

AbbyNormal

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Perhaps you are experiencing social anxiety or more specifically performance anxiety.

Our faithful wiki resource gives an overview Performance Anxiety

It is common among musicians and public speaking. I read once that the worst fear of many people is public speaking.

I was in choir and band in high school and college and for me the experience of performing before an audience was very beneficial in developing my ability to later lecture to a group of students. I sang in a quartet and had several solo trumpet roles and I practiced and then visualized performing well.

I did a quick google and found using beta blockers and hypnosis but that would be more for performance artists.

My best advice would be learn the material, anticipate the questions and practice answering in private. Visualize yourself being successful, practice, and perform. Some of the stuff in the wiki article might help but no need for me to read to you.

And always remember, no matter how bad it gets they can't eat you.

Not a clue if any of this helps. Best of luck.
 
Feb 17, 2010
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You do realize that being a doctor involves communicating with people? A 4.0 brain doesn't mean you'll be a good doctor. 4.0 is not an intelligence rating. I'm sure there are plenty of intelligent people with 2.0. Intelligence covers much more than simply your academic performance (which is what your GPA is based off of). Quit being so arrogant.

You need to create as many opportunities to present in front of an audience as possible so you can practice. Also if you can't remember what people tell you maybe you should get in the habit of taking notes. Sometimes you can't teach yourself to do better at something and you just need to learn to adapt.
 
Apr 26, 2009
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You do realize that being a doctor involves communicating with people? A 4.0 brain doesn't mean you'll be a good doctor. 4.0 is not an intelligence rating. I'm sure there are plenty of intelligent people with 2.0. Intelligence covers much more than simply your academic performance (which is what your GPA is based off of). Quit being so arrogant.
Didn't mean to offend anyone. I didn't say I was going to make a good doctor anyways nor did I say a 2.0 gpa student wouldn't make a good doctor. I was just trying to make the point that I just sound dumb when I am put on spot.
 

AbbyNormal

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You do realize that being a doctor involves communicating with people? A 4.0 brain doesn't mean you'll be a good doctor. 4.0 is not an intelligence rating. I'm sure there are plenty of intelligent people with 2.0. Intelligence covers much more than simply your academic performance (which is what your GPA is based off of). Quit being so arrogant.
I did not think he was being arrogant. He was describing himself and asking how to improve in class. I thought it was appropriate to say his gpa was 3.9. That tells me that his comprehension and performance on written exams is good. What stresses him is oral questions. Are you perhaps jealous because your gpa is 2.74? Perhaps not. Just asking. And don't think that I am implying that a person with a 2.74 gpa is not smart. My son has a high school gpa of ~1.3. He is gifted in math and spatial design but has a written language learning disability. He excels in computer assisted drafting but typical classes are largely dependent on written work thus he fails. Ask him to write an outline and he cannot. But two weeks ago he bought computer components to build his dream computer and within two days he had it operating. You get what I'm saying?
 

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I have always been a good student. Currently have 3.9x GPA and have finished all my pre-reqs. The thing is that even though I am smart when I am put on pressure I ALWAYS blank out. Like if I was put in front of a class or if a teacher called me I could never come up with the answer to the question. But a few seconds or minutes after the attention is off of me I sudden know the answer. I hate that this happens to me. It is frustrating that I have so much knowledge but I can't even communicate it. I feel like there is no point in learning it if I can't even express what I learn. Like what is the point of having a 4.0 brain but talk like a 2.0 student. I am scared that this can seriously affect my interviewing skills which will prevent me from getting into med school or any job what so ever. Anyone have advice on what I can do to improve myself? Or do I just put myself on spot until I can adapt to it?
You can always take a second or two to think when answering a question posed directly to you.

Take a breath. Compose yourself. You know the answer so go ahead and repeat the question to yourself if you need to. All this might seem like it takes a while but it'll only take a second or two once you're practiced.

When you're used to it, you'll be able to react to having a question thrown directly at you and throw and have a thought out answer within a few seconds.


The other technique that works well is to anticipate the question...

If the professor is talking about X, Y and Z... have things they might ask you about X, Y and Z ready in your mind. So, if the question falls to you, you've prepared your response and you can shoot a confident response back immediately. When I'm getting pimped on rounds, this is my best strategy. Although, it requires you to out-think your resident or attending, so default to the above if/when it fails.
 
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You can always take a second or two to think when answering a question posed directly to you.

Take a breath. Compose yourself. You know the answer so go ahead and repeat the question to yourself if you need to. All this might seem like it takes a while but it'll only take a second or two once you're practiced.

When you're used to it, you'll be able to react to having a question thrown directly at you and throw and have a thought out answer within a few seconds.


The other technique that works well is to anticipate the question...

If the professor is talking about X, Y and Z... have things they might ask you about X, Y and Z ready in your mind. So, if the question falls to you, you've prepared your response and you can shoot a confident response back immediately. When I'm getting pimped on rounds, this is my best strategy. Although, it requires you to out-think your resident or attending, so default to the above if/when it fails.
+1

I don't think anyone minds your contemplation of an answer before you speak. In fact, there's an old saying: "Think before you speak."
 

Infinitydrop

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While when it comes time for interviews, spend a lot more time prepping. Draft key points to address, Get the common questions and lay out some answers. Think about the way to approach an interview and in what tone of voice you want to speak. But in general, i find that as long as you have a very solid idea of what you want to get across to the interviewer, you can manipulate the conversation to address those points, and it won't feel random. you don't have to be funny or quirky, i find interviewers are mopre impressed by concise, well thought of answers than the on the spot little conversations about nothing
 

akinetopsia

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I have two suggestions/thoughts.

1) Consider taking an improv class or workshop. People that are great improvisers tend to be good conversationalists, and there are tricks you can learn that you will make you more comfortable thinking on your feet/speaking extemporaneously.

2) Kind of like Depakote said, take your time in answering questions and speaking. Any time you are speaking in public, unless you are reading from a script or handout/outline that everyone has, no one will think you screwed up what you are trying to say or know it, when you take time to collect your thoughts and figure out what you want to say and how you want to say it. People think that in this situation they look unprepared or nervous but for the most part no one notices, or they think you are thoughtful. A lot of people have anxiety about public speaking, and it's understandable. Luckily, it's something you can practice.
 

DrSmooth

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And remember there are different types of intelligence and temperament. You have to figure out what yours is, embrace it and capitalize on it, and maybe shore up your weaknesses when they start actually causing you problems. A lot of time we focus on our weaknesses to the detriment of our strengths. Sure, you don't want to sound like an idiot at an interview, but I would guess others aren't nearly as critical of you as you are.

Is the issue that you feel stupid when presenting, or that you have received negative feedback after presenting? It might just be a self-perception and confidence thing. But regardless, if your goal is to feel more confident and comfortable on the spot, the advice about improv and toastmasters is really good. Habituating yourself to these situations will lower your stress level and allow that 4.0 intelligence and your other strengths to shine through.

And sounds like doing a lot of mock interviews and pre-interview prep would be really good for you. Other things that might help lower your stress at interviews are to make sure you are in great physical shape, eat well, buy a sharp new outfit at the start of interview season, stay with a student host, tour the med school the day before, and arrive before most other people on interview day. Basically everything you can do to increase your confidence and make you more comfortable with the environment and culture of the school you are at. All this will make you feel at ease and not "on the spot". I'm sure you'll do great!
 

Daedra22

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Everyone has experienced some kind of anxiety speaking in front of strangers. You have to get up in front of people and be willing to make mistakes--and be gracious enough to acknowledge those mistakes and move on without losing your air of control... that's not easy.

What helped me most when I went to auctioneering school was when one of my instructors told me to "put on the mask of the auctioneer." Even if you don't feel like you are the polished think-on-your-feet kind of person, it is within you to do so. You just have to play that part, and convincing yourself that you can "pretend" is half the battle... after a while, you realize that you're not 'pretending' anymore; you're actually that good.

I know some of that sounds a little crazy, but for what it's worth, I hope it helps.
 

elektroshok

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Everyone has experienced some kind of anxiety speaking in front of strangers. You have to get up in front of people and be willing to make mistakes--and be gracious enough to acknowledge those mistakes and move on without losing your air of control... that's not easy.

What helped me most when I went to auctioneering school was when one of my instructors told me to "put on the mask of the auctioneer." Even if you don't feel like you are the polished think-on-your-feet kind of person, it is within you to do so. You just have to play that part, and convincing yourself that you can "pretend" is half the battle... after a while, you realize that you're not 'pretending' anymore; you're actually that good.

I know some of that sounds a little crazy, but for what it's worth, I hope it helps.
This is actually really good advice.

When I started at my job early in college I was HORRIBLE and briefing the executive members and big wigs - but you really have to be confident in that 'role' you will be performing for however long the presentation/discussion/etc. is.

After a while it will become second nature. And everyone gets nervous and stumbles over words or thoughts here and there, but as time goes on the frequency is less and less..
 
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Premed90 I did not mean for that post to sound so b*tchy. I just read what I wrote and it did not come out how I meant it. I just wanted to apologize about calling you arrogant. I think I may have misread your post a little. This is what happens when you mix SDN and insomnia.

Don't worry too much about stage fright. I used to be terrible just talking to strangers (even ordering pizza). But you'll realize it just becomes easier the more you do it and after awhile you won't even have to think about it. It might sound silly but just try striking up conversations with strangers, that's only one person at a time. Then move on to something bigger. My school offers an Undergrad Research Conference where you can present a 10 min ppt on your research in front of people and get judged. Maybe your school offers something similar. Or take a speech class.

Oh also one more thing is really think about what you're afraid of? Is it embarrassing yourself? Well whatever your fear is just get over it by living it. So if it's embarrassing yourself then go out and embarrass yourself. It's more about how you react after that decides if it's embarrassing. It's okay to laugh at yourself.

Also when it comes time for your interviews if you're put on the spot and you need a moment to think just say that. Say I need a moment to think about it. It sounds so much better than saying um or struggling through something you haven't thought through. And it sounds like your answer will be amazing if they give you a moment or two.

Also if you're nervous about the interview specifically, try and find a place you can videotape an pseudo-interview. My school's career counseling center offers this. But I believe you can also find it online.

Good luck.

*Side note: And yes AbbyNormal my 2.78 GPA is kind of a sore point. But as of right now that only incorporates my engineering courses. And the avg. graduating gpa of an engineer is 2.8.
 
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AbbyNormal

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*Side note: And yes AbbyNormal my 2.78 GPA is kind of a sore point. But as of right now that only incorporates my engineering courses. And the avg. graduating gpa of an engineer is 2.8.
I thought it might be. It is just a number. There are many different kinds of intelligence. Your gpa does not mean you will not succeed. As I mentioned my son is bright but his gpa is low. Even Stephen Hawking did poorly in high school and during his first two years of college. In fact he did so poorly on written exams in college that they orally tested him during the second year and it was then that they realized how intelligent he really was.

Believe in yourself and if you have an obstacle look for the solution. :thumbup: