Introduction: In my live and online gre prep teaching I very often encounter students with high test anxiety and I have several ways to help alleviate it. It is a relative of “performance anxiety” brought on by having to respond to other’s perceived demands, whether of an audience or an an authority. The authority here is the ETS test company itself or the graduate department that, using the grade will pass a judgment on the test taker’s worthiness to attend the grad school. At its extreme, test anxiety can cause blanking of even obvious facts, “dumb” procedural mistakes, high stress leading to fatigue, even nausea and irritability. If you anticipate more than the usual bit of controllable nervousness while taking the test, here is a routine which, when done perhaps three times in leadup to the test, can help the subconscious “remember” a successful experience and outcome to the test experience. (Much more detail about this is conveyed in my online GRE prep course.) This summary will give you a sketch and feeling for it:
First, Relaxation: A simple relaxation technique is to sit or lie quietly (relaxing amorphous music in the background is good) and begin by focusing on your breathing. Starting with the feet and ankles, then up the legs, the buttocks, back, shoulders, arms, neck, face, mouth, etc., tense each muscle then let go and invite it to relax. Breath is key. Breathe slowly and regularly and say “relax” with every exhalation.
Second, Study Visualization: Note the use of affirmations throughout the visualizations that you can then continue to use as you actually study or take the test. Proceed with the visualization…First see yourself studying effectively; look forward to your next study session. See all the details of the place you have chosen to study….Close your eyes again and breathe deeply to relax and clear your mind. Then see yourself resuming work with renewed energy and confidence. Tell yourself, “When / get bogged down, I stop and recharge my batteries. ” If you have planned a special reward for after the studying, see yourself enjoying the ice cream or the movie or whatever.
Positive self-statements to inject into all the visualizations above and below (and to use in all study and testing:
“I am a good student”
“I am relaxed, calm, alert and confident for testing”
“I am accomplishing my goals”
”I am capable; I have confidence in myself. “
Third: Test-taking Visualization:
(See yourself out of your own eyes, or see from a viewing perspective.) As you go into the test, you notice that you are feeling calm. Find your seat at the computer stall and look around. Fix the details of the room in your mind. You see a light glowing “cocoon” around yourself screening out any anxiety from other test takers… Tell yourself, “I avoid panic. I easily recall what I’ve studied.”… Finish the test confidently. You receive your score on math and verbal and are satisfied that it has met your goals. Leave the room feeling relieved and confident. Prepare to receive the reward you had promised your inner child who has now patiently waited for you to finish.
Fourth: Visualization of Beyond the Test: See yourself receiving a letter of acceptance to your desired institution…later, look on the wall of your upgraded residence to see the framed Master’s or Doctor’s degree.
See and experience how fulfilled and proud you’ll feel after accomplishing your goal! (If you are a high anxiety student you can confer with me more on your particular needs as you take my online GRE prep course as well as afterwards!)