Test Anxiety – A childhood fear that can creep into Adulthood

At the beginning of 2014, I made a commitment to myself and my manager that I would take a Microsoft Certification Test.  This is not a requirement of my job as a Senior Recruiter. However, working in an IT company around IT professionals who regularly sharpen their skills by taking the latest and greatest MS Certification tests, I thought to myself, “Why not challenge myself and jump on the bandwagon.”  As a result, I mention this to my manager when establishing my yearly goals and we put the plan in action. It was now in writing that I had until December to accomplish my goal.

I’m not sure exactly when or how it happened, but at some point around June or July these voices that I had not heard in my head since I was in college started talking to me again. The voices that cast doubt, made excuses and caused extreme procrastination. I shrugged it off at that point and thought to myself that I have plenty of time to prepare. I am not the same person I was back in high school and college and I would not feel the same way taking a test now, as an adult, as I did then.

I was wrong! I found the same fear of failure, and feelings of self-doubt holding me back. When I finally pushed through and starting studying in December, I discovered I knew a lot of the information.  What I needed to do was master a few new techniques, familiarize myself with the testing process and walk in with confidence.

Sounds easy; however, this is when all the voices in my head start talking again.  One of my issues with taking tests had always been completing them on time. I felt like there was a timer in my head telling me to hurry, because I was about to run out of time. Often even if I was familiar with a subject, I would get caught up in worrying about the clock, freeze and forget material that I definitely knew walking in. By the time I got myself together or was able to retrieve that information from wherever it had gone off to in my brain, the clock had run out.

As an adult I would like to think that I had out grown this anxiety, but evidently I had not. So what can be done? I can continue to avoid signing myself up for anything that requires taking a test as I had done since college or I can try to learn some new techniques to deal with my anxiety. Some common suggestions to deal with test anxiety are:

  • Learn relaxation techniques
    • Deep breaths
    • Visualization
  • Become familiar with test environment
  • Learn to study efficiently
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Eat before the test and drink plenty of water
    • Avoid soft drinks and coffee which cause spikes in blood sugar
  • Get exercise before test to release tension
  • Practice questions with peers
  • Be aware of learning disabilities which cause challenges during testing
    • Diagnoses of Dyslexia and ADHD often allow for extra time for test taking

In the end, if you prepare to the best of your ability, walk in confident, and utilize all of your time, you should be proud of yourself and your efforts, whatever the test outcome.

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