How do I get rid of test stress?
While familiarity with test content is undoubtedly helpful, sometimes just doing practise exams is not going to make the stress go away. Some common causes of test stress include: anxiety, lack of confidence, being distracted and pressure to do well.
The truth is you are going to be stressed on the day of the UMAT, but that is not all bad news. A little bit of stress can actually be beneficial to your performance.
Consider the Yerkes-Dodson Curve:
We perform best when there is a moderate amount of stress placed on us. It allows us to think rationally, and actually enjoy what we are doing. On either side of that we have under-stimulation and over-stimulation, where negative emotions and general dissatisfaction take over. Don’t think of the UMAT as a draining experience, after all, it is part of the journey to achieving your dream career.
Whilst this “optimum performance zone” may be different for everyone, we all have one and it is through practise and developing certain test tactics that allows you to find the zone where you are both calm and alert.
Knowing vs Performing:
Knowing and performing is not the same thing. “Knowing” is how well you understand the content. “Performing” is what you do with what you know. No doubt by the time you do the UMAT, you will know a lot of skills. But the real question that remains is how well you perform – that is, how well you utilise what you know.
Your performance on the day hangs significantly on how your mindset is.
You can be the nervous person who only thinks about failing or you can approach each question on the UMAT calmly. Don’t let external factors you can’t control affect you – the ticking clock, questions presented to you on the page, the weather, etc. Stress is caused by an individual’s interpretation of the events around them. In other words, you create the stress for yourself.
A good question to ask yourself is: “what am I doing to myself that is making me feel so stressed out?” . This is the first step to recognising that you are causing yourself stress so you can identify the factors and fix them.
Common stress reactions:
Knowing what some common stress reactions are can help you identify how you react to stressful situations, like the UMAT.
- Physically tense
- Thinking negative thoughts
- Being continually distracted
When you are physically tense, your body is agitated so you can’t think clearly.
Negative thinking can be the killer to the confidence boost that you need during demanding times like the UMAT. When you say you are not good enough, you are not supporting yourself. During the UMAT, your mind needs encouraging messages, rather than messages of failure. When you think negative thoughts – it is like giving up on yourself! In fact, these negative messages can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. That is, if you think you are not going to do well and you keep insisting on it question after question, you probably are not going to do well on the UMAT!
Don’t let yourself let you down.
When you get distracted during the UMAT, your mind cannot properly focus on the questions. This is decreasing your level of performance.
There is still time to mentally prepare yourself so you can get into that “optimal zone” where are you are alert and calm during the UMAT. When doing practise exams, try to sit in a way that relaxes your muscles so you are not physically tense. Instead of thinking negative thoughts, give yourself some encouragement. It does not have to be “bring it on! I am so good at this”. They can just be little things like, “I’ve done this before, so I know the method.” Finally, stay focused. Ignore other things happening in the room. Rather than worry about time ticking away, or other questions, just focus on the question you are working right now.
A final word:
Remember, stress is going to be there during the UMAT no matter what, but if you remember to keep calm, focused and confident. You can at least make your UMAT experience a good one.