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What Causes Test Stress? - Be Aware, and Build Your Mental Toughness To Perform Well.    Do you like to take tests? Do you see them as a challenge and a puzzle to be solved? Or do you see test taking as a threat and something to be avoided at all costs? Whichever camp you are in, test-taking does carry some stress. Read this article to discover the 50 stress factors that surround test taking.    564 words.
The Mental Game Coach, Peak Performance Playbook

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What Causes Test Stress?

Be Aware, and Build Your Mental Toughness To Perform Well

Bill Cole, MS, MA
Founder and CEO
William B. Cole Consultants
Silicon Valley, California

Some people love to take tests. They see them as a challenge and a puzzle to be solved. Other people see test taking as a threat and something to be avoided at all costs. Whichever camp you are in, test-taking does carry some stress. To minimize this stress, the smart test taker considers as many of the stressors that surround tests, both before and during, and devises ways to surmount them. Some of these can be avoided. Some can be changed. But many stressors simply have to be endured. That's where excellent preparation and mental toughness come in. Mental toughness is the ability to maintain focus, discipline and confidence in the face of stress. To perform to your potential in any test, you have to have this toughness.

For the purposes of this article, let's take a look at what causes test stress in the first place. You may be surprised to see so many variables that go into being successful at test taking.

50 Factors Can Cause Test Stress

  1. Too many tests in a short space of time.
  2. Too few tests so testing practice and familiarity is reduced.
  3. Too many other tests at the same time.
  4. Too many other pressure tasks at the same time.
  5. Last minute test preparation.
  6. Insufficient practice for a particular type of test.
  7. Insufficient practice taking tests under time pressure.
  8. High importance of the test.
  9. Publicly published results of the test.
  10. Negative rumors about the test difficulty or test nature.
  11. Competition about the test results.
  12. Taking a test in public, with a performance aspect.
  13. Having to leave a test early or on a tight schedule.
  14. Being overscheduled for the test day.
  15. Stressful personal life.
  16. History of stress in test taking.
  17. Lack of complete test preparation.
  18. Arriving late to the test.
  19. Stressful events immediately preceding the test.
  20. Difficult test material.
  21. Unknown test content.
  22. Trick and surprise questions.
  23. Unusual test directions.
  24. Personal illness.
  25. Lack of sleep.
  26. Physical fatigue.
  27. Hunger.
  28. Dehydration.
  29. Physical pain and discomfort.
  30. Noisy environment.
  31. Time pressure.
  32. Uncomfortable chair and desk.
  33. Uncomfortable room temperature.
  34. Uncomfortable clothing.
  35. Poor lighting.
  36. Insufficient hearing.
  37. Unfamiliar surroundings.
  38. Unfamiliar noises.
  39. Unfamiliar people.
  40. Unfamiliar test materials.
  41. Unfamiliar test procedures.
  42. Unfriendly test proctors.
  43. Illegible test materials.
  44. Incomplete test materials.
  45. Malfunctioning or lost pen or pencil.
  46. Lost test support materials.
  47. Cheating test takers.
  48. Test takers trash talking.
  49. Disruptions during the test.
  50. Test directions and questions in your non-native language.

As you can see, many, many factors can cause you to become stressed when taking a test. The smart test taker takes all of these into account and attempts to handle each one as best as possible. It's critical to recognize that not all (and in many cases very few!) stressors can be changed, so that leaves you with the reality that your mental toughness becomes a major deciding factor in how well you perform on the test.

In future articles we will examine mental toughness at a deeper level and give you ways to develop it. For now, recognize these 50 test stress factors and do your best to battle them so you can win the test taking game.

Knowing about educational psychology and being test savvy is certainly an important part of being a good student, but top students who get consistently high grades also have a knowledge base and applied skills in stress control and peak performance. You need to know how to manage your mind, calm your emotions and relax your body so you can get into the “test zone”, that powerful, deeply focused mind-body state that gives you excellent recall, mental alertness and clarity. You need to learn these skills and become mentally tough so you can handle the extreme pressures of academia. Other mental skills training you need are visualization, confidence-building, mental readiness training and motivation skills.

To learn this set of mental toughness, zone, and stress control skills, sign up for our special Test Anxiety Stress Reduction Program. You can also take this no-cost assessment of your test-taking skills.


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Copyright © Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.

Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps organizations and professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports. He is also the Founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association (www.mentalgamecoaching.com), an organization dedicated to advancing the research, development, professionalism and growth of mental game coaching worldwide. He is a multiple Hall-Of-Fame honoree as an athlete, coach and school alumnus, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published book author and articles author, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports, big-time college athletics and corporate America. For a free, extensive article archive, or for questions and comments visit him at www.MentalGameCoach.com.

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Control stress in taking tests  
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