Reply To: Test Anxiety

February 15, 2017 at 10:35 am #2980
Mike Kim

Hey Tristan,

I’ll chime in —

I actually don’t know anyone who doesn’t experience nervousness about the test — here are a few thoughts that come to mind —

1) When you practice in the book, you are told ahead of time what you will be facing (a flaw problem, a certain type of game, etc.), and, because you solve a bunch of similar q’s at once, you are able to develop a rhythm — when you go into mixed drilling, you have to determine for yourself what type of challenge you will are facing, , and your mind has to jump from one type of challenge to another —

The task of constantly determining challenges and jumping to different types of challenges is very tough for everyone, and it takes your brain some time to get used to it — so, finding questions more challenging in your practice is certainly understandable — it’s something to be conscious of (that is, in your review, you should consider carefully whether you were able to jump from one task to another well, and your thought processes / goals correctly matched that particular given task or not) and it’s also something that you can naturally expect to get better and better at with more practice.

2) It’ll be to your benefit to have experienced and dealt with nervousness in your practice before test day — so, make sure to continue to try your best to mimic the pressure of the exam as much as possible in your practice.

3) Related to that, everyone has different opinions about this, but I recommend focusing on time during your practice (that is, don’t do untimed practice), but, simultaneously, not being beholden to time —

To give a practical example of what I mean — every problem you solve, you should be focused on trying to do so as quickly as possible, and tracking and trying to improve that, but, at the same time, especially at this stage in your prep, you don’t want to sacrifice accuracy for pace — so you don’t want to take shortcuts or not do what you need to do to get a q right just because you are trying to go fast.

This combination of focusing on speed but not sacrificing for speed is, I believe, extremely beneficial in a variety of ways, perhaps most importantly for the development of efficient problem solving instincts and habits.

4) The best tool you can reach for when you feel nervous are habits that you can rely on.

And this is really what you want to gain from all this time you put into studying the test. So, make sure you are constantly thinking about and working to develop the right habits for every situation.

To give an example — every LR q, you start with the habit of reading the q stem — and this works as a trigger — it tells your mind to think about the problem in a certain way — at that point a student with poor habits might go into the stimulus with some generalized goal such as “I have to read really carefully!” whereas a student with stronger habits (and the right mindset, of course) can go into the stimulus with a focus on a specific and helpful task, such as “Okay, so, what’s the author’s main point?”

So again, make sure you are continuing to do everything you can to develop the right habits for every situation.

5) Work to be aggressive.

Again, everyone is different, so please ignore me when you know my advice doesn’t apply to you, but most people deal with test nervousness best by being aggressive. Get yourself pumped up however you can, and really try to take it to the questions (yes, I know how nerdy that sounds). Having an aggressive mindset can help prevent you from getting disoriented or overly methodical (two common reactions to nervousness).

Those are my thoughts for now — hope at least some of them are helpful! —