10 Ways to Take the Terror Out of Tests

What is it about taking tests that stresses us out?

I had to sit for several tests over the weekend.

Looking for office work means I need to be proficient in MS Office. Telling people you are an expert at Word or Excel won’t cut it.  You have to do assessments to show your level of expertise. You have to prove you have the goods to get the job done.

Taking tests can be downright nerve-racking.

Here are some of my thoughts on taking some of the stress out of tests.


I’m sure that one didn’t come as a big shock. When you are in a situation where you can study and prepare for a test – then do it.

Yes it will be time-consuming and you might have to put some of the other things in your life on hold temporarily but it will be worth it to be prepared.

Practice could be easily substituted for the word study in cases where you are already doing the work but need to sharpen your skill level or where the work is hands on and you have the opportunity to practice.

Think about the work you do automatically

Have you ever had to train someone in your job? Years ago when I went on 6 weeks holiday to Croatia and Ireland, my boss asked me to train a temp to perform as close to my standard as possible.

This led me to sit down and think about all of the things I do in my job. It made me realise how many tasks I do automatically without even thinking about the twenty small, individual steps it takes to get one task done.

When you are sitting for a test in something that you already work on, it helps to be able to break down some of these steps.

I will give you an example.  Using MS Office I tend to right-click the mouse.  I do it without thinking in certain situations.  But when it came to the test, I had to stop doing something that was automatic because a right-click would register as a mistake.  Consequently I had to rethink the way I was working, so that it would not have an adverse affect on my score, which leads me to the next point.

Ask about the test when possible

Sometimes you will get an opportunity to ask about the test, other times you won’t.

Thankfully I asked the agency one simple question before the test. That’s when I found out about the no shortcut or shortcut menu (no right clicking rule).

Most of the time you won’t be able to ask. Instead you will have to work out for yourself what is most likely going to be included in the test. Granted this is hard since there are so many variables but try to at least anticipate the basics and be prepared for those.

Read the test questions properly

Often when we take tests we start reading the question and get all excited because we realise we know the answer. In our excitement, we rush off to work on our answer – without thoroughly reading the question.

Rushing to answer the question without reading it fully can lead to mistakes. It doesn’t hurt to read the question thoroughly twice to make sure you know exactly what you are dealing with.

Don’t view every test as an earth shattering event

Sometimes we simply put too much pressure on the outcome of a test. We convince ourselves if we don’t do well, we won’t get into the college we want or get the career we want and the like.

I will be honest here. I didn’t sit through stressful high school tests to try to get into college or university. I was already out in the workforce by then (which can be stressful all by itself at the ripe old age of 16). Consequently I have no personal experience where getting an ‘F’ on a test means you won’t be able to attend a particular college.

The truth is some tests are a lot more important than others. But in saying that, some tests can be taken again. For the ones that are really important, again it comes back to studying and being as prepared as possible.

Know your choke points

I have been typing since I was 13 years old. Without doing the math, that’s a long time (yes folks it’s over thirty years) and yet sit me down for a timed typing test and I go into a slight panic.

I start to sweat and my hands get shaky. I know I can type; as a matter of fact I am a damn good typist. I know where all the letters are but for some reason the minute I am on the clock and being monitored – I choke.

Can you relate? Do you have a little chink in your armour that sends you into an unexplained panic?

The way around this problem. Practice, practice, practice. Practice under pressure. I actually bought an inexpensive piece of typing software that you can do timed tests on and practiced like a crazy person. I did this because my problem wasn’t with the typing, it was with letting my nerves get the better of me.

Sometimes we just need a helping hand with those tender points.

Don’t assume the worst

Years ago I sat for one of those physiological employment tests for a bank.

By the time I walked out of the test, which went for a couple of hours, I had written off my chances of ever getting the job. I was so discouraged that I started to wonder if I needed to sign up for some sort of part-time education program.

I didn’t finish all of the questions, I was sure I had botched the answers I did complete and who the hell knew the right answers to most of the psychological profile questions. I felt totally stupid and deflated.

Then the call came and I got the job. All of that stress and self-ridicule had been for nothing. I did just fine, better than fine actually.

Don’t let your skills slip

I talked about this in my recent newsletter. Sometimes it’s not about cramming study into a one-off occasion.

It’s more about continual improvement over time.  It’s more about keeping our skills up to date and keeping abreast of the latest software (within reason naturally) and trends within your relevant industry or business.  It’s very much about constant continual learning.

Just for the record this doesn’t mean you have to sign up for one university degree or MBA after another.  Sometimes it’s not about taking on additional academic study, it’s about learning and challenging yourself in your current every day environment.

Use calming techniques

When you feel the pressure mounting prior to taking a test, use a technique to calm yourself. Your technique may be taking a few deep breaths, doing some relaxing stretches or taking a quick walk if that is a possible option.

Perhaps you prefer to plan a well deserved reward after the test?

Don’t cheat – ever

This one goes without saying. No matter how stressed or worried you are about a test cheating is NEVER the answer.

It’s over to you.

How do you go taking tests?  Do you have any coping strategies or test experiences that you would like to share with us?

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