My Philosophy on Test Taking

2:47 PM

Allegedly I tend to emanate high anxiety vibes to those around me. (Look, Erich, I think it's a perfectly acceptable response to start crying when my parents leave me, and then cry harder when I put my hand in my pocket and discover I dropped my phone in their car that's headed eight hours away. Perfectly acceptable.)

And maybe I do. Okay, yes, I do. But since I live with lightning fast emotional responses that unchecked lead to typhoons of despair, I learned to curb them, control them, channel them. Especially for schoolwork.

Step 1. Study enough. Basically, don't leave anything until last minute. . .last minute meaning the entirety of the night in which you should have been sleeping.

Step 2. Don't study more because of panic. I review what I know, and I learn what I don't know. I don't do anything more or less. I've learned when I know something and when I don't know something. I know, for example, that if I create and review a study guide, I retain most of the information fairly easily. I know that I can memorize dates within a day or two. I know that I can come up with writing essays on the spot if I know in general what I'm talking about. No need to write out entire essays for every single potential essay topic.

Step 3. Focus on the things I can control. There is no way I can predict what questions my prof will give. I didn't know, for example, that the short answer question would be on the whereabouts of the King of France in King Lear's ending battle instead of the scientific cult of New Atlantis. And when that question shows up on my test, I'm not going to freak out and berate myself for not studying hard enough for something I couldn't predict.

Step 4. Sleep. Sleep really does seal in everything I learn. Magically. It's awesome.

Step 5. Stop worrying about it. If I already studied as much as I could and answered all the questions I thought to think, that's all I can do. I accept that and chat with my classmates for the ten minutes before the test starts. Or daydream. Or argue theology in my head.

Step 6. Put things into perspective. If I miss a question on the exam, so what? I still retain my intelligence about other subjects, my friends and family, my good study habits, and my humanity. If I didn't study well enough, this test ought to give me a kick in the pants to never slack again.

Step 7. Acknowledge my limits. The duration of a test is not a good time to pray for your IQ to automatically bump up or for the test to suddenly become easy. I'm not a fan of praying for tests to go well; I'm a fan of praying for God to be glorified by the way you studied and/or took the test. It's your own fault if you studied so badly that you can't answer anything, and it's to your credit if you studied well enough that you're tearing along through the answers. Regardless, you can't change the past during the test. If I can't answer a question, I can't answer a question. There's nothing I can do about it right now except guess, so there's no need to freak out about it. Moving on.

Step 8. Slam the blue book shut and never think about the test again until your grades come in. (This last step is crucial for the continuation of sanity.)

Step 9. Walk outside and realize that life still continues on regardless of what happens in that basement classroom. Yep, it's still raining. Yeah, I still need to go to class. And oh, hey, I still have all that homework that studying for this midterm prevented me from doing.

See? No time for anxiety at all.

You Might Also Like

2 impressions

  1. Hm. It all makes sense - until you sit down in the chair and see that test in front of you.

    Ensue panic.

  2. Great tips. I hate test taking, but I tried to stay sensible, followed a lot of the strategies you mentioned, and ended up doing fine (most of the time). Ooh, one weird one I heard one time:

    Wear the same lotion or fragrance while studying and taking the test. Our sense of smell is one of the strongest memory aids we have.

    Dunno if it works, but it is worth a try.


Hit me with your best thought! I'm very interested in your unique perspective. If you'd like to discuss things in private, feel free to email me! :)