Dealing With Anxiety


Dealing With Anxiety

Anxiety is a huge factor for most people when facing the prospect of taking their social work exam. Anxiety can put you into a “fight or flight” adrenaline response. This response is great when facing a saber-toothed tiger, but not so great when you are trying to focus and answer test questions. A little bit of anxiety tends to sharpen thinking processes, but too much anxiety means that all of your energy is channeled into preparing to run or fight, and very little energy is applied to thinking and analyzing. Therefore, managing anxiety is key to success in your examination.

Try to write down some of the automatic thoughts that pop into your mind when you’re sitting at your computer and completing a TestMaster exam. Allowing scary, negative thoughts to dominate your consciousness can just cause you to feel scared and hopeless. Once you’ve identified some of these automatic negative thoughts, such as “I’ll never pass” or “I can’t do this”, you can then work on replacing those thoughts using cognitive restructuring. This would include telling yourself "I am calm and relaxed" or "I know I will do fine,” or “Yes, the test is hard but I’m a good social worker no matter what.” Using positive thinking should lead to feeling less frightened and anxious. Feeling less anxious frees up your brain to actually think about what you’re doing.

One thing that many candidates do to try to manage their anxiety is to change answers. This is usually a fruitless and flawed strategy for managing anxiety because: 1)Most people tend to get the answer wrong when they change answers (although if you are that rare person that changes answers and get them right – more power to you!) 2)When you get an answer wrong because you changed it just because you were feeling anxious – guess what – you get more anxious! The only time you should change an answer is if you have an epiphany – like realizing that you missed a key piece of information in the question, or you suddenly remembered a buried factoid. If you are a habitual anxiety-based answer-changer you will need to address this on a behavioral level. Sit down for a TestMaster practice exam and complete 25 to 50 questions. Do not allow yourself to change answers no matter what. Train your brain to go ahead with your best instinct.

Realize there will always be questions you can’t answer – it’s just part of the process. The question may be about something you have no knowledge of. In that case, try to narrow the answer down to two and then just make your best guess. You can always flag the answer and come back later (if you have time) to take another look at it. One thing you should never do (in TestMaster practice exams or in the real exam) is leave the question blank. If you leave it blank and are not able to come back to it (because you forgot to go back or because you ran out of time) you are guaranteed to miss the question. Even if you go “eeny meenie miney mo” and pick randomly, you have a 25% chance of getting the question right. If you’re trying to choose between the two most likely answers, just guessing will yield a 50% chance. That’s a whole lot better than 0% if you leave it blank! Or, the question you can’t answer might just make no sense at all. If that’s the case, it’s probably one of those pre-test items that test creators are just trying out. If everybody gets the question wrong, the creators will probably discard the question because it is a bad question. For a question like that just tell yourself, “Oh – a pre-test item – guess I won’t freak out about it and I’ll just use the eeny meenie method of guessing randomly.” Using this strategy should help you stay calmer than if you panic. You’ll never know if the question is a non-counter, but just in case it is, you have a 25% chance of getting it right by picking randomly.

When you read a question and you are feeling panicky, take a moment to close your eyes, take a couple of slow, deep breaths, and imagine yourself sitting in your office with clients. Imagine how they make you feel, what kinds of associations or concerns jump into your mind, and what you might do if they were real clients. Breathe deeply while you do this – it only takes a few seconds. Also, take a long, slow breath from your solar plexus while you rephrase the question in your own words. Rephrasing the question forces your brain to think about the question which is a good thing! While you breathe, straighten your back as if someone were pulling a lever between your shoulder blades.

Use your time working on TestMaster exams to learn how to manage your anxiety so that when you sit for your actual exam, your anxiety will be a cognitive sharpener, rather than an overwhelming fight or flight experience. The best antidote for anxiety is preparation, having a plan, and lots and lots of practice.

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