Testing can be a total drain. Sometimes you feel great, answering each question with ease. Other times, the lines start to blur, your eyes seem impossible to keep open, and the questions look like they are written in an alien language. The momentum can swing back and forth as you move through a difficult test and that is no accident. Professional test makers know that they aren’t just testing your content knowledge. They are testing your mindset!
Tests are cleverly designed to see how you will react to different levels of questions. Some answers may seem easy, which will test your endurance, thoroughness in reading directions, and the ability to trust your gut instinct. Other answers may seem incredibly difficult, testing your mental toughness, resilience, and tenacity in battling for the right answer. While questions will test a variety of content skills, every single question is a test of the strength of your mindset.
To conquer every test and come out with your best possible score, there are two key strategies that you must master: the confidence anchor and the reset button.
Let’s start with the confidence anchor. This strategy comes from classical conditioning in psychology (look up Pavlov’s dogs to see the foundation of this method). The idea is simple. You pair a feeling with a physical response, so that when you need that feeling again, you do the physical response to trigger it. In this case, we want to anchor our confidence. To be able to feel confident on demand, you need to pair it with a physical response. I recommend pairing it with a physical response that you can do anywhere, discreetly, so that you can use it during a silent test. It could be a pat on your back, a thumbs up to yourself, a confident and deliberate nod of your head, or any other gesture. The important thing is to do this gesture every time you feel confident.
Now, start every test by performing that confidence anchor. Before you even worry about the content, or the difficult of the test, remind yourself of your past successes! Remember that you have reason to feel confident. Allow that confidence to carry you through the test, trusting your instincts and believing in your ability to score every point possible. If your confidence wavers throughout a test, do it again! Keep your confidence high at all times.
Feeling confident is crucial to good test taking, but so is bouncing back. The more difficult a test is, the more lumps you will inevitably take. It is almost certain that you will come across a question you did not study for, or be tested on a concept you have never seen before, or asked a difficult question that you cannot come up with an answer to. In those moments, many students panic, freeze, or get so rattled that they miss subsequent questions that usually would be easy for them.
Similar in practice to a confidence anchor, a reset button can help you overcome the stressful moments to perform at your best. Check out what CEO Gene Zannetti has to say about reset buttons:
Again, you pair a physical gesture to the idea of resetting and refocusing. It could be a deep breath, rubbing your hands together, or any other small movement. Every time you face adversity on a test and feel anxious, use that gesture to remind yourself to reset. The goal is to keep you mindful of every question, so when a difficult question throws you off track, you are still giving your best effort on the question after it. Nothing should be able to break your concentration or focus on a test. If you give each question your full attention and effort, your scores will not only go higher, they will stay more consistent from test to test.
Confidence anchors and reset buttons. Commit yourself to learning and applying these two physical gestures and prepare your mindset to handle the pressure of any exam. Practice it on every test, practice test, or even class assignments and homework. The more you improve on creating confidence when needed and bouncing back on demand, the more effective you will be on every test you take for the rest of your life!