Feeling stressed about a test is natural. After all, what is a test but an artificial stress test on your knowledge? Stress is not a bad thing by itself.
Eustress Stress Is Not Distress Stress
When a person exercises, you’re applying stress on your muscles. Since it’s on purpose, your body reacts differently. As Eustress vs. Distress points out, you feel energized. If someone else had applied the same kind of stress on your muscles as a form of torture, you would be experiencing severe distress. It’s your mindset toward the experience that matters. From back when I was a kid to now, my mindset has been a growth mindset. Tests are challenges to overcome.
Playing the Game
Although important, education is a game and doing well in a test is a way to get a high score. Yes, to pass the test you have to learn. It’s also true that you’re going to want to learn much more than what is needed to pass a test. If your time is limited, swear to yourself that you are a life-long-learner and that for now you will do what is needed to do fantastic on the test. You’re taking the test to get a score. Just don’t forget to learn more later in life when you can! Learning and applying what you learn helps you succeed in life.
So when getting my Bachelors and later Masters in Computer Science, I played the game and overcame the challenges. I scored quite well. Fortunately, I was able to learn beyond just getting the good grades. I had the time and used it to make progress in my goals for the sake of my personal mission. More about my mission and my mindset is in Gamification Journey of FinneyCanHelp.
If you read the Gamification Journey above, you know I view life as an important game. So, how did I do fantastic in the game of taking tests? How did I take a fear of failure and shift it over to a growth mindset? I did what any self-respecting game-player would do. I role-played that I was part of the next stage of human evolution. That’s right. I pretended to be an X-Men superhero.
Although Storm and later Wolverine were my favorite X-Men superheroes, I didn’t pretend to be them specifically. My powers were yet to be discovered and my goal was to uncover them by pushing myself to the limit. Although I know I’m not really a mutant, pushing myself to the limit is still my goal. It taps into the warrior instinct.
As part of the warrior instinct, it’s important to exercise the mind and body. For the body, I walk every morning. For the mind, I meditate. Often, I combine the walking and meditating. For anxiety, there is a specific approach you can take which is covered in “Anxiety? How Does One Start To Meditate?”
This wholistic body / mind approach comes from the days of Gymnastics and the beginning of my meditation journey. It goes beyond just exercise though.
Nutrition, sleep, and everything you do or think matters. It’s all about restoration, reflection, growth, and taking action. To get all of that, one must be disciplined. As touched upon in discipline around energy yields productivity, a warrior is disciplined.
Like Jocko Willink says, “Discipline is your best friend.” Watch What Discipline Really Means:
Some people presume they can win the game by not sleeping. However, that’s a horrible strategy. Sleeping sweeps away the useless garbage that you pick up in your mind. Sleeping helps one retain and recall the important bits of knowledge. In other words, it strengthens the important memories. The article 7 Ways Sleep Affects The Brain (And What Happens If It Doesn’t Get Enough) covers the benefits of sleep well.
Eat To Win
When choosing between a banana and candy, go for the banana. A banana has the right amount of sugar to help you when learning. In short, it’s like making your body and mind both happier. As Bananas As Brain Food says, bananas help with alertness. You don’t get the energy spike and then crash like you do from candy.
Study to win. Spread your studying out. Don’t cram. Also, figure out what strategies work best for you. For me, I love flash cards whenever appropriate. If it’s software development we’re talking about, I create code-katas. Although those might not fit your specific circumstances, it might give you some ideas. The 10 Study Methods for College-Bound Teens has the usual tips with an item or two you might not have considered.
Take Great Notes
While taking notes, I would watch for excitement in the teacher’s voice, body language, or any clue as to whether an item is something they extremely care about or not. I mark such items with a star on my notebook as a prime test candidate question. Something to know well.
Use the office hours and / or ask questions during and after class. Say you want to be sure that you are ready for the test. Say what you’re focusing your time on and ask how close you are to hitting the mark. When done, thank the teacher for their time. Also say with a smile what they want to hear and what you believe: “I care about doing well in this class.” It shows you take this serious. Although most feel that way, most people will not say such a thing. You’re in this thing to win and working with teachers helps.
If you have questions during the test, ask. You’re not asking them for the answers. You want to be sure you understand the question and what they are looking for. I remember getting up three times during a test once and asking a question to make sure I understood what was being asked for. I decided: “So, what if this is the third time? I’m in this to win!” As long as you are just asking for clarification and not criticizing the question itself, you’ll do fine.
Seek Out Allies
Find others (allies) in the class to compare notes with. Study groups can be a great support. Having at least one other person to study with helps. When selecting what classes to take and with which teachers, ask around. Pick the teachers with the best reputation whenever you can. Not the ones that like to be “tough” just to inflate their ego.
Keep in mind, you want the teacher to be an ally of yours as much as possible. Many teachers care about helping you learn. Some might not though. If you ever feel a teacher is the worst monster to walk the face of the earth, recognize that they are a human being who has had their wiring wired wrong (either by birth or by life’s impact on them) and forgive them. Hating a teacher will not serve you well. Of course, take action if a teacher is abusive.
Sedalia For Stress Relief
Consider Sedalia or something like it. Please read the product information before using Sedalia. It has a warning for those pregnant and / or breast-feeding. Don’t give it to a child that is under 12. I didn’t have Sedalia available when I was at college. However, I wish I had. For me, it’s like Chamomile tea but won’t make me have to go to the bathroom in the middle of an event such as when taking a test or giving a presentation. I occasionally use Sedalia in high stress situations. If someone asks me what I am taking, I say it helps calm the stomach which is true. The Sedalia product information says “Relieves digestive symptoms caused by stress” among other things related to stress. As demonstrated by this blog post, I have no problems with people knowing that I sometimes take Sedalia for high stress situations. However, I don’t have time right before a presentation to have the more in-depth conversation that careful use of legal drugs such as caffeine and Sedalia are just tools of humanity. You’re not weak for using a tool. You’re smart.
Practice Getting Used To Taking Tests
Practice. Even though you have already taken the test or quiz, Ask the teacher if they can give you a blank copy so you can get used to the feeling of taking tests. They may not since sometimes they re-use tests. If they do, make copies for yourself. If not, just write the answers on another sheet of paper. Take the test over and over again. Take it until you’re almost bored. Take the test until you feel it in your bones that a test is just a thing to do. It’s a piece of paper that you are putting information on. Make Change and Habituation your secret weapon.
I recognize this might not be possible due to time constraints. However, try it at least once. There is way too much hype that people give around test taking. That hype feeds into a storyline.
What Stories Do You Tell Yourself?
Recognize the stories you are telling yourself. Are you dooming yourself by saying to yourself over and over that “you are not good at taking tests”? Stop that. Instead, tell yourself the real truth such as “I have struggled with taking tests and quizzes. However, I will do my best and eventually win.” As expanded on in Lose Negative Self Talk By Losing Yourself, negative self talk does not serve. It encourages procrastination and drains you like an energy vampire.
All that said, I noticed that if I went into a test situation without some stress (think eustress) then my scores were lower even though I was completely calm. In short, I was overconfident. So, going in with some healthy eustress is a must.
Like Steve Jobs said, you’re going to die someday no matter what you do in life. While you are on earth, give the world the best of yourself that you can. Be the happy and uplifting song that echoes in the minds of others long after your life-song as ended.
Why Am I Sharing All This?
In the 10% Happier app, George Mumford shared the Law of the jungle, “For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.” Not only have I tried to live that law, I have had the good fortune to experience it where I currently work at CARFAX.
There’s a connection between an individual and their community. I recognize all humans as belonging to a community that has challenging times ahead. May we all support each other in our desire to learn, grow, and make life better for all.