Critical thinking under time pressure?

So, in my 20-ish years in the education system, I have always had a lot of trouble performing critical thinking tasks under time pressure. Rote learning is no problem, and putting together essays is no problem, but for any kind of critical thinking task (problem solving in math, chemistry, or linguistics, translating an unfamiliar modern foreign language), my brain just seizes up. Absolutely will not work. I can solve these problems fine when I’m not under time pressure, only to fail overwhelmingly on the actual exam. It feels like I can perform simple operations, but that’s all-- I can’t think very deeply about the problems.

So, two questions for you all:

(1) Are any of you the same way? If so, what coping strategies have you developed?

(2) Is this an actual documentable condition, one that I could possibly use to request more time on exams for?

I believe this may enlighten you on the subject a little bit. The gist is that everyone’s creativity is stifled by monetary motivation, which I think a time limit can be an adequate surrogate for.

As for whether or not you can get more time on exams for this, the answer is probably not, but it is always worth speaking to your professor about. If they aren’t willing to give you an extension, they may be able to give you some pointers.

Can you explain a bit more about what happens to you under exam pressure? Does your mind wander? Or do you find yourself reading the same question over and over again without understanding it? Do you enter a panic state? What exactly happens?

Practice under time pressure.

According to the book Choke, practice under moderate pressure can improve performance under even more intense pressure.

You should be doing as little critical thinking as possible under pressure. What practice does is it takes something that you normally have to think about, and turns it into a habit, which you can do without thinking.

Timed exams aren’t the place to develop new theories. You have to have a strategy for solving problems before you take the test. During the test it becomes a matter of executing the strategy, and doing as little thinking as possible. All the thinking must be done before the test.