Battling Test Anxiety

Source: Wikimedia Commons.  By the way, the exam is totally electronic, so stray pencil marks that mess up a Scantron are one less worry.
Source: Wikimedia Commons. By the way, the exam is totally electronic, so stray pencil marks that mess up a Scantron are one less worry. Unless the computer cra–never mind.

Ok, so maybe you have the intellectual side of the test under control; you have your materials, your review books, and have taken as many online practice questions as possible.  But what if you’re a person that doesn’t feel that they test well, or are just feeling especially nervous as the day for your scheduled exam approaches?

First, an important note about the test:  The test is not designed to be a mine-field filled with tricks and traps to shatter the hopes of thousands upon thousands of doe-eyed grads and weeding most of them out to crown America’s Next Top Social Worker (TM) with accompanying agency assignments, dramatically edited reality-show clips, and commercial endorsements (I call shotgun on Apple and Applebee’s).

Instead, the test is designed to measure whether during our 1-4 years of grad school, through courses and integrated field experiences, we have the minimum set of competency to practice in the field at a generalist entry level (not that failing it doesn’t mean you don’t).

Let’s use a little reframing:  Instead of looking to “get you,” the test is more of a professional board’s saying “Hey there, remember all those cool classes you took and field experiences you had?  Just checking in to make sure you’re on the same page with us, know what social work’s about, and that you can, using yourself, apply what you learned to situations (in the form of clinical vignettes!) you will without a doubt encounter as a practitioner!”  

Ok, still a mouthful, but often someone’s amount of anxiety can be a reflection of beliefs instead of actual ability.

If you went into this profession, it says something about what you stand for (social work values), the actions you took to get there (you have “textbook knowledge” and practical “hands-on” experiences), and through those actions, strategies to get licensed (everything from study groups to using the same anxiety interventions you would with clients!).

What are some beliefs that you feel increase or decrease your anxiety about test-taking?  Have you engaged in active (exercise), social (peer support), or contemplative (e.g., mindfulness) activities to battle it?


3 thoughts on “Battling Test Anxiety

  1. I think taking deep breaths help with test anxiety. It clears your mind and refresh your brain for the test. I have anxiety and I have exams in coming Sept so I feel damn nervous about it. Maybe you can give some practical ways to cope with it? 🙂 Thank you for the great post. Check out my blog where I write to live.

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