Thursday, January 3, 2013

Test Terror

Lots of people call it test anxiety, but when you have 40 minutes to do 10 questions and you look at Question 1 and have no idea where to start…it truly is terrorizing.
We all have blamed our collective testing blackouts and malfunctions on the jerk-off teacher or the calculator that didn’t work right or the fact that we ran out of time and how unfair the test was.  But when our pencil and test paper meet that fateful day, we are truly the only culpable party to our own test performance.
We are responsible for what letter or percentage is written in red on the top of the page the next day.  And every time, that number represents who we think we are.  That number tells us not Who we really are, but who we believe ourselves to be.
Do you know you are the master of your own life?  Or are you certain that You Don’t Test Well?
Are you convinced you have issues with schoolwork, or have learning problems, or your teacher doesn’t like you?  You don’t like that class anyway and why do you need to know that fact in real life?  The class is boring and you will never use the information you are supposed to parrot back to the teacher in your future career.
It is all good, right?
No matter what bravado we wear on test day, that too-low red number can be painful to see on the top of our test paper the next day.  Each stroke of red ink can feel like a stab in the gut telling us we are not worth much, and we will never succeed in life.
I would like to point out, however, a few facts to the contrary.  Instead of your poor test grade representing all that you lack and have failed in, the red ink is like the bumpers you can have put up at the bowling alley…you know the ones they put up for little kids, but we all like to put them up and play anyway.  Or  like the bumps in the middle of a two-lane road, or on the sides of a freeway that make annoying sounds when you drive over them, but you are so grateful they are there to let you know you have drifted out of your lane.
The bowling alley bumpers and the freeway bumps are there for the same reason.  They are gentle reminders that let us know when we have gone off of our path.  We have missed the mark.  They help us steer ourselves back on the right track and get to where we want to go.
Your test grades can do the same thing for you.  They can let you know that a few adjustments in your academic life might need to be made.  You can prepare more thoroughly for a test by reviewing the material and finishing all the homework before you sit for the test.  You can go over the material and retake notes on parts you are not too sure about as well.
Let’s say that preparation is not the problem.  When you take any test, no matter how well you know the material, you still do poorly.  You feel nervous before each exam, like you want to throw up, and you never do well on your exams.
So what makes you forget all that you know when you sit down to take your exam?  What is the reason we all sometimes choke when the pressure to succeed bears down on us?
There is only ONE answer to this question, no matter how it is worded or posed.  You will only do as well as you believe you can.  If you know you can’t do math or don’t like chemistry, the red ink on the top of your test paper will make you right every time.  In this you cannot fail.  All the preparation in the world will not overcome your overarching belief that you don’t test well, or aren’t good at math or English.
So let some of your work in school be about changing your beliefs.  Change how you feel about yourself with regard to the class you have a test in.  You might not like the class, but you do like yourself, and you do want to do and be the best you can be in All that you do: even the boring stuff.
When you are able to know you can do anything you set your mind to and that you are the Master of your life, even when it comes to Geometry or Chemistry or History, you will start to see improvements on your test taking performances.

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