Test Anxiety

submitThere are a few things in life that hinge on a test score. A drivers license, college admissions, and professional certifications. Preparing for any of these may require months of study and practice, and if you’ve worked hard, you pass. And sometimes you have to take the tests again, and again.

Maybe because tests are a shared experience, we love to complain about them. “I’m not a good test taker,” or “I don’t test well,” some say. I never felt that way, but over the years, I’ve come to doubt if my achievement in school was as much the result of my ability to take a test, as it was to actually have a command of the material. Supposedly girls do better in school because we are able to sit still for extended periods, and we thrive in a structured environment. I guess that was me. I liked reading and doing my homework. I studied hard because I was supposed to, and I wanted to do well.

When it came time to take the SAT and ACT, I considered these tests as a measurement of my cumulative school experience, not something I could study for all over again. So I took them cold, and I did fine. Years later when my kids faced these tests, I wasn’t quite so confident, and wondered if a prep course would be required to assure they’d stand out from their peers.

In my professional life, past academic achievement has never been a sure indicator of success. I admit, I was surprised to discover that some of the best people I worked with were high school graduates, or had gone to a college that wasn’t on the US News Best Colleges list. And yet they were great at their jobs. I saw that learning doesn’t stop on graduation day. Jobs require additional knowledge, and they also evolve and demand continued growth. Marketing, for example, has changed dramatically, and I’ve had to throw myself into new technologies to remain a valuable, contributing team member.

Now I’m in a new role that requires some specific licenses. I was excited when my study materials arrived, and eagerly started highlighting the important concepts and facts. My coworkers have warned me that I need to study hard to ensure I get a passing score. I’m not intimidated. I know what to do. I’ve taken all of the sample tests, and drilled with my homemade flashcards. I feel solid.

The testing center has tighter security than the airport. I can’t even bring in a tissue for my runny nose. The online assessment has 100 multiple-choice questions. I read each question carefully and select the answers I think are correct. The Submit button glows at the bottom of the screen. Is it an action or a command? I hold my breath and click. After an agonizing 15 seconds my score is displayed.

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