Preparing For A Major Test

test taking

A lot of people struggle with taking tests.  Some get so much anxiety and fear around test taking that it inhibits them from even walking into the classroom.  Most, however, do experience a good deal of anxiety around the taking of a test, yet manage to deal with the uncomfortable feelings enough to get through it and actually pass.  My wife has taken a lot of tests over the years and is a seasoned veteran when it comes to three hour long focused tests in order to get certified to move on in her career.  She stresses over the test enough to motivate her to study hard, but doesn’t get so worked up that she can’t concentrate and pass the exam.

Her last test, however, was a different story for some reason.  I attribute a lot of it to her mindset, but some of it probably had to do with the time of year.  December is a busy month for most people, but especially adults.  She had scheduled her exam for December 15, thinking at the time that she needed to pass this accreditation by the end of 2018.  Just thinking about the test stressed her out and made her feel overwhelmed.  All of the information she read and heard from colleagues told her she needed to study hundreds of hours and practice the test for at least a week straight, all day, in order to pass it.  It’s the last month of the year and most businesses have a lot going on to wrap up their year.  Hers is no different.  How could she possibly take so much time away from her office to buckle down and study the material and pass this test?  On top of all that, it was Christmas month which is one of her favorite times of year and she loves to go shopping, decorating and socializing for the holiday.  Not this year, she told herself.

Mentally, she was not in a good place.  She was overwhelmed just by looking at the study material.  The book was huge and THICK!  Taking a tenuous peak inside the book revealed that it seemed to be written in a language she didn’t understand.  She had only four weeks to prepare for this test and pass it or she would not be able to continue selling financial products in her business.  She tried to settle down in her home office several times to study but her office was always calling her with some situation they couldn’t handle on their own.  Then there were distractions at home from minor crises that she had to handle.  It was not going well at all and she was getting even more frustrated, stressed and freaked out.  The test had now become the size of a planet and she had no idea how she was going to conquer it.

She felt like giving up so many times.  She cried a lot of frustrated tears.  The information was difficult to understand and even harder to remember and it seemed like no one would give her any peace long enough for her to concentrate on it.  Every one she knew who had taken the test talked about how hard it was and how much they had studied to pass it.  This did not help her relax when she kept getting interrupted and distracted by other things.

Eventually she was able to get going and developed a plan of attack that seemed to be working for her.  It took a lot of false starts to get traction, but once she did, momentum took over and she pushed through.  Even with momentum and motivation on her side she had many days of tears and wanting to give up.  But she didn’t give up and kept going.  I encouraged her the best I could and suggested she take a short break when she felt frustrated to the point of giving up.  I loaned some of my crystals to her and we surrounded her in citrine and quartz to help with concentration and focus.  She put an intention to pass the test under a geode and placed it on her desk.  She said affirmations daily.  But mostly, she studied from early in the morning until late at night.

The last week before the test, which she had to take at a testing center two hours away from our home, she packed up all her materials and moved into a hotel room near the testing center to do the final studying before the big day.  She wasn’t comfortable in the room, the light wasn’t right, the chair was not right.  She wanted to come home.  There were more tears.  Still, she stuck it out and kept studying.  The practice tests she took weren’t going all that well.  She was only getting scores of 69 or 70 on them and a passing grade was 72.  This did not help her confidence at all!

While she was fighting her own battle with the testing materials, her family, co-workers and friends were also fighting right along side her.  We all knew how important and difficult this test was and we all knew how much she was struggling with it this time.  We all knew she would pass the test.  She always did.  She’s smart and she’s incredibly good at this stuff.  It was hard to keep a straight face at times when she was going on and on about how stupid she was.  We all know how brilliant she is so it was ridiculous to be told she felt stupid.  But the practice tests were making her feel stupid and we certainly empathized with that.  We all gave her as much encouragement as we could and reminded her of how strong and smart she is.  Maybe that helped her, but it never did seem to get through to her.  As a coach I did my best to support her and coach her, but ultimately, I am her husband and probably the most valuable thing I did for her was to listen to her and hold her while she cried.

The day of the test came and she was super nervous, but resolved to get through it and do the best she could.  I tried to remind her that the deadline that she once thought was in concrete is not actually a problem anymore and that if she didn’t pass it wouldn’t be the end of the world.  For me, knowing that I had another chance to take the test would have taken a lot of the pressure off, but for my wife, it made no difference at all.  She did not ever want to have to take this test again, so in her mind, she had one shot to get it right.  Whew!!  That would be really tough for me!  But for her it was the mindset she needed.

Ultimately, she passed the test and everyone cheered and let out a sigh of relief.  Now we could get back to our normal life and start to enjoy the holiday season.

Helping my wife and best friend through this tough test was a learning experience for me.  I’ve been through these tests with her many times before, but this one was different for some reason.  First of all, she had a bad attitude about it from the start.  She resented having to take it in the first place.  Some lawmakers on Capitol Hill had changed the financial laws and for two years her company had pulled out of providing financial services to their clients and now the company had decided they would allow their agents to get back into it but they had to pass this new test in order to do so.  This put a bad taste in her mouth from the get go.  And then she received the study materials and they were overwhelming as soon as she opened the box.  And the time of year was probably the absolute worst time for anyone to try and buckle down for a test of this magnitude.  There wasn’t much time available to study and her office was always busy in December.  She had a lot of negative stuff to get past before she could even settle down and start studying.

But somehow, with a lot of support from friends and family, we all were able to take care of everything so she didn’t have to worry about anything but the test and she was able to get started.  The support she received (and always receives from her family – she’s very fortunate that way) was probably a big part of her success.  But the biggest part is her own intrinsic motivation to not only pass but to do it well.  I give her a lot of credit for pushing through and getting this done.  Everyone gave her an out and an easy excuse to not pass the test, but she was having none of that nonsense.  She was going to take the test and pass it.  NOW!  Because she never wanted to have to touch those books again.

I can’t say that I was the best coach for her at this phase of her life, but I certainly did my best and I do think I kept her calm and rational when she was feeling the opposite.  People have told me that I am a calming influence and make them feel confident in themselves.  I’d like to think that my calm confidence helped her.  Test taking is not my forte by any means, but staying calm and focused when all hell is breaking loose IS one of my superpowers.  I’m proud and happy that I could help my wife through the eye of her most recent storm.

Have a great week!!
Shawn

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