Thursday, August 18, 2011

Test Anxiety

I suffer from test anxiety.  I've always excelled academically, but I put so much pressure on myself to achieve high scores that tests always brought on 'the symptoms'...  racing heartbeat, sweaty palms, scattered attention.

When I took the SAT, I almost had a panic attack.  I remember both times I took it, I was suffering from a cold; no doubt it was an illness brought on from studying too much and worrying the weeks prior to the test.  My scores really didn't improve that much, at least, not for what my parents had to shell out for me to take the exam... those test companies sure make a pretty penny!

Today, I retook the GMAT.  As you may remember, I failed to finish the math section last time, resulting in an average score that frankly disappointed me.  I felt like I hadn't studied enough, that I hadn't pushed myself hard enough... but I also knew that I absolutely PANICKED during the exam and felt horrible throughout.  It's a long exam, which can be stressful, and it's not easy stuff.  This time, however, I am happy to report that my *unofficial* score from the test is NINETY (90!) points higher than when I took in May.

Looking back, I can't say that I studied that hard over the past few months.  What I DID study, however, was focused on what I messed up the last time.  I think the book that helped me most was from the Manhattan GMAT collection, on Word Translations.  Don't let the title fool you... it was ALL math, the sort that stumped me the last go-round.

For the past week, I've got to say, I did all the right things for myself... which brought on this super exciting improvement!  I'm not a GMAT genius by any means, but 90 points from one test to the next is really exciting to me.  I didn't do ANY of these things the last time, and look where that got me.  So read and heed, fellow test-takers!

Take care of your body, and your mind will follow.  I've gotten back into exercising, regularly taking vitamins, and controlling my depression/anxiety..

Make the test a priority.  I told my boss I needed time off before and after the test.  I took vacation days... and as a result I had a WEEK off prior to taking the exam.  If you have at least a day off before and after, you don't get distracted about worrying about work when you should be focused on the test.

Sleep.  This goes with taking time off...  sleep.  You need the energy, and the sleep you get two nights prior to the test is JUST as important as the night prior.

Don't overstudy.  I used my Manhattan GMAT books, but I DID NOT study the week before the test.  The majority of my studying started about eight weeks prior.  I did look at a few of the formulas/strategies I found to be helpful, but I did not work a single problem.

Get comfortable!  I wore my loosest jeans, flip-flops, comfy tee, and a seamless sports bra to the test.  Yes, a sports bra.  I looked like a scrub, but I felt super comfortable.  I chose a test time that was at 10:30am, when I knew I would be most alert.  I had time to eat a good breakfast.  I just TOOK MY TIME and felt really relaxed.

Watch the clock.  Before the test started, I noted how many minutes per question I would have, and kept myself to a rule: if I spent two minutes on a problem but couldn't get a sure answer, I would guess.  If you can eliminate a couple of answers and then take an educated 'stab', it's better than running out of time and leaving questions blank.  This time, rather than running out of time, I had EXTRA time!

I feel great.  I'll never be one of those perfect-score people, but I'm so happy I improved.  I even treated myself to some Fresh Market treats and Gigi's Cupcakes afterwards.  I don't have work tomorrow, so I'm kicking back this afternoon with a glass of cabernet sauvignon.  I've never felt so good after a test, and now I realize that I can beat test anxiety... I just have to follow my own rules.

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