By Leonard Williams
If the number one fear is public speaking, then the number two fear among students is probably test taking. GED® candidates are no different than most students and adult learners who experience anxiety or tension at test time. And many times, they have more at stake since passing the GED test is so critical to educational and career opportunities.
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Test anxiety is normal. A healthy amount of test stress can be good. Stress launches adrenaline, a brain chemical that can make a test candidate more alert. But too much test stress inhibits clear thought, creates fatigue and reduces performance. Months of studying and GED practice, won’t help if you freeze or fall apart at the GED test site. So what’s the right balance between a healthy and productive amount of test stress and the kind of anxiety that overcomes test candidates?
Test Anxiety Strategies
Consider the two-part test required for a driver’s license. Most drivers are able to quickly memorize the rules of the road a day or two before the 20-minute test, and perform without problem once the testing officer is in the passenger seat. But what would happen to a driving candidate who never looked at the driver’s manual, or had never been on the road? Not only would this want-to-be motorist fail to perform, there’d be high anxiety in the driver’s seat.
GED practice, with sample GED questions and GED classes online or in school, is the best way to reduce test anxiety and perform well. GED practice should include study and a comprehensive GED practice test program in all areas of the 5-subject test. Taking at least one half-length GED sample test for each subject will get you prepared. A good practice test for GED prep improves knowledge, both of the thinking skills you’ll need and of how to read and answer GED sample test questions. You can’t cram for the GED test. A good strategy is to study, take a GED practice test to be sure you’re ready, and then register for the GED exam.
A practice test for GED preparation teaches test candidates how to use knowledge, provides testing experience and measures skill strengths and weaknesses. A GED practice test can make your GED test prep more effective by showing you what to study. An online GED practice test is an easy way to get familiar with the test structure, question and answer layout, and test timing and test expectations. Then, at test time, the test will be a known factor instead of an unknown factor. Test familiarity, along with knowledge ownership, helps candidates have confidence in their abilities and demonstrate their skills. These are prime strategies in reducing fear, overcoming test anxiety, and ensuring a solid test performance.
Many GED candidates express concerns about the timing of the test. Some may be slow test takers; some don’t have a feel for how to pace themselves through the test. Test problems easily distract others. They concentrate on a few problems and score well but find they’re soon out of time and can’t complete the whole test. Or, test candidates may rush through the test because of time concerns. While they finish test sections quickly they later learn their answers were incorrect. And there’s no score or reward for finishing first, or finishing fast.
Timing varies for each test, and the full battery includes GED science, GED social studies, GED reading, GED writing, and the two-part GED mathematics test. On average, allow yourself about 66 seconds for each question during GED pre-test practice and GED practice problem-solving to develop or improve time management skills. This strategy will reduce test anxiety about timing, and help candidates learn the art of pacing.
Mind & Body Prep:
While test candidates ensure that their abilities and time management skills are sharp, they’ll also want to explore mental and physical ways to reduce test stress and incorporate stress reducers into their GED study program. Good nutrition, exercise and healthy rest patterns are important, since the GED test is a scholarly thinking marathon. And knowing how to relax at test time is equally important; learn and practice relaxation techniques during long study sessions.
Know the Cues:
Test anxiety doesn’t just happen. It happens on cue. And for many GED test candidates, anxiety is a habit. Just like the anxiety response is learned, it can be unlearned or shifted to a level where anxiety works for the test, instead of against it. Here are some typical test stress cues and strategies to manage them:
- Feeling overwhelmed? Take it step by step. Read directions carefully. Skip questions that seem overwhelming and get through the easy questions first. Then return to think through the more difficult ones.
- Nervous and jittery? Test burnout halfway through? Avoid processed foods or fast foods, along with snacks and beverages with high-sugar content. Avoid caffeine.
- Feeling tense? Stiff neck? Eyestrain? Change positions. Stretch. Breathe deeply. Rest your eyes. Clear your mind. Start afresh.
- Blank? Frozen? Fearful? Relax. Skip the question and go on. You’re in control. You’re ready, and you’re doing your best. Take the test at your own pace, and the pacing you’ve learned and practiced will come back to you, along with the knowledge in your vault.
- Test fatigue? Eat a healthy snack before the test. During the GED test, use relaxation techniques. Pause. Clear your mind. Give yourself positive reinforcement. Visualize the goal.
- Just a little anxious? Expect it. Surrender to it. Even welcome it. Know that some anxiety can help you perform, provide energy, and increase thinking clarity. Acknowledge test stress as a further reminder of the importance of your goal. Make it work for you.
- Sometimes just talking to others about the test or test anxiety is helpful. Talk to other GED students at the GED Academy’s GED forum.
- The University of Western Ontario offers tips to reduce test anxiety. Tips…
- Nemours Foundation has produced an online article about test stress, and offers an audio breathing exercise to learn to reduce test anxiety. Click for the article… and breathe!