We’ve all been there. The nerves, the shaking, the sweaty palms.
Taking a skills speed test is unlike the usual testing experience. When you take a written exam, you have the benefit of mulling over an answer and going back to the question at a later time. If an essay is required, you can take a few minutes to formulate your thoughts so you can respond in an organized manner. Although there is a time limit, you have flexibility in the way you can use that time.
When you as court reporting students are taking your skills tests, you have no such luxury. You need to be spot on at that very moment. You need to write every word, hit the right keys, and keep up the seemingly relentless pace. You have only so much time to transcribe. And as if that weren’t stressful enough, the pass rate is not 70%. It’s 95%! It’s no wonder that test anxiety is a major issue for so many in this field.
There’s a lot of advice out there on what to do to mitigate test anxiety; for instance, get plenty of rest the night before, eat a healthy breakfast, and engage in deep breathing exercises. Some believe exercise helps to calm nerves; some believe in meditation. Positive mental rehearsal is another technique used by many as a means to enhance positive results. All these suggestions have merit, and they’re worth pursuing.
Unfortunately, there is no foolproof solution to calming those test jitters. What works for one person may not work for another. Each of us has to find our own way in this regard. One thing is for sure: Anxiety comes with the territory in this profession. Even when you are out in the working world, there will be times when your anxiety is through the roof. You must find a way to deal with and overcome what can sometimes be a crippling fear.
On the other hand, I personally find that a little anxiety can actually be a good thing. It gets the adrenaline going and keeps you on your toes. The trick is to find that balance where you have just enough anxiety to propel you forward but not so much that your feelings of panic and dread sabotage you before you even get started.
For those of you who are prone to having test anxiety, the best advice I can give is to be prepared. This means putting in as much meaningful practice time as you can. Write cleanly, expand your vocabulary, build your dictionary. Read back everything, examine your errors, and correct them. Hone your concentration skills so you can eliminate distraction. Keep a positive attitude and get rid of negative thoughts. If you are stuck at a certain speed, consider that a temporary situation and resolve to keep on trying. Even though you may have failed at your last testing attempt doesn’t mean you won’t succeed in the long run. If you are practicing in an efficient and deliberate manner, even though you may think you are not making progress, you are. You’ve passed tests before. You’ve already had success! You just have to pass some more.
Test anxiety is a part of every student’s learning experience. It’s normal. It’s sad that for many of you the anxiety is heightened because you haven’t passed a test for months, because you have no other financial options, or because you can’t run away from your obligations at home. But don’t give up! The good news is that there are wonderful job opportunities waiting for you when you graduate and become certified; and once out in the working world, the anxiety you feel today will dissipate as you gain more experience.