Testing Trouble

Staring down the first set of tests of the season this week has me all aflutter my friends!

Good news though: test one was at 0800 this morning and I made it through with a few minutes to review (and revise)! Which is exciting for me not only because I had time to review (my time budgeting during tests sucks) but because often I struggle to review (I just can’t read it again) so actually revising something (anything) is an accomplishment. Also, and I don’t want to jinx anything, I felt very comfortable about my performance!

Another piece of excitement was that I actually accomplished swimming in the morning before the test! The night before I considered not doing Monday and trying for Saturday as my third day for the week but I ended up putting my foot down–I chose to sign up for morning swim to get some of my pent up energy out before classes started and I was going to accomplish that.

I was up and at’er at 0530 this morning and, while I tried to set everything up for the smoothest of starts, I forgot my bike helmet and phone and had to go back for them after already getting my bike down to street level from my apartment. I then faced a headwind which made going up the slight hill across the river feel impossible (not to mention how silly it made me feel as cars passed by me). I ended up being ten minutes late, I only did 1300 m of the workout because I needed to be out of there to be at the college with plenty of time to spare before the test (which decreases my anxiety levels re: being late for a test).

After the morning hiccup everything went to schedule. I have to admit though, I really need to rent a locker at the pool because my backpack was uncomfortably cramped with my swim gear in it.

This was my second morning swim and while Friday was alright I have been coming up short as far as finishing the workouts go: I skipped 600m of flipper work on Friday because I was being lazy and ran out of time, and I skipped at least 600 m of work today because I was late. I’ve been in the slow lane thus far too, but today it seemed to be moving at a snails pace and was actually slowing me down significantly. I am considering moving up to the moderate pace lane in order to push myself and complete the workouts but it definitely makes me nervous as I don’t want to slow them down and, as silly as it sounds, the lane is full of guys.

That tangent aside, I thought I might talk to you a bit about my testing strategies to curb my time issues, keep myself on task, and curb my nervousness:

  1. Go to bed and wake up early- instead of stressing the night before and trying to study all night and then waking up early anyways because I’m nervous I’ll be late, I budget my time so that I can go to bed between 2100 and 2230. This way when I wake up nervous at 0500-0530 I’ve at least gotten six to seven hours of sleep. This helps decrease my stress levels and increases my ability to concentrate.
  2. Exercise before the test- you should be all studied up. Throw a set of condensed study notes in your back pack and hit the gym. If you swim, like me, line your times up so you have a half hour or forty-five minutes–after finishing up in the pool and having a shower–before the test starts to review those SHORT notes. Otherwise, do it while on the treadmill or bike or whatever. This seriously helps with my stereotypies in the class room (pen or foot tapping, clicking my nails on the table, playing with my hair).
  3. Have a test kit- this should be set up and in your locker at all times. I have non-clickey pens (multiple), a calculator, a couple of colours of highlighter, white out, two sharpened pencils, a pencil sharpener, and an eraser. I also include a fidget in my kit (today I used a stress ball). This means you’ll never have to worry about not having something you need for a test at school.
  4. Highlight your test- my tests are covered in highlighter marks. In my first few years of university I realized that I was loosing marks because I was reading questions wrong. I read very quickly and in a test because I feel like time is super short I try to read even faster–bad idea–I’ve walked out of tests thinking about a question only to realize two minutes after handing the test in that I read the question in the wrong way. I’ve also received tests back where the question is something like: which of these is NOT… and I’ve answered the on that IS most correct. I highlight at least one aspect of almost every question, whether it is the number of possibilities they want listed, or a key point of information. I also basically write things down on short answer tests in a stream of consciousness fashion and so I often highlight the key points I was trying to make (to help the prof out and to make it easier for me to re-check my answer).
  5. Think, breathe, and move on- If I’m stuck on anything for more than say three squeezes of my stress ball I take a moment to stop, look at how many marks the question is worth, think for a second to see if something pops to mind, jot down anything I think might be right, and then if a complete answer hasn’t come to me I dog ear the page and move on. I come back to the dog eared pages (I often star and highlight the specific question on the page) after going through the whole test once. This really helps with my time allocation because I can get stuck and rather obsessive about a single question otherwise.
  6. Bring a quite snack (or two) and water- a bagel, some cut up pita with peanut butter and honey, anything you want that won’t make noise, stick it beside you and munch away (if your school has a policy against it… well first off that’s stupid, but secondly tell them low blood sugar makes concentrating harder). I also have a 700 ml water bottle filled up and ready to sip.
  7. Treat it as a learning exercise- don’t even look at it as a test, look at it as a survey of knowledge. The question is: what knowledge has actually taken up residence in your head, not are you 70% good enough or 90% good enough or 50% good enough. If you get a bad score that says “the amount of the information in this course that has actually set up residence in your head is too little if you want to be able to have a good discussion about it or use it later”.
  8. Don’t sweat it after the fact- once it’s done the temptation is to join your classmates and discuss specific questions that gave you trouble and see what they thought… DON’T. Let the freshness of the experience fade a bit, maybe even wait for your marks and then go see where you went wrong so you can discuss it with your professor. In the meantime as you wade through people groups only ask your classmates things like, how did you find it? How did you feel about that one? Go find a quiet space, put some headphones on, close your eyes for a few minutes and listen to your favourite mix, or sketch, or write something. Just let it be and enjoy something.

That’s it guys! A bit of a long list and not all of these will work for everyone but those are some of my strategies, they also work for the most part, for presentations and important meetings or speeches.

In the meantime, one more pro-tip–making a pizza on a whole grain pita for supper the evening after your test is a fantastic way to have a treat that isn’t too big. Put some pizza sauce, protein, cheese, and veg on it and you have a great personal sized meal!

Do you have any special testing strategies? What’s your favourite workout for de-stressing? What’s your go to song to pump yourself up or cool yourself down for a big event?





  1. hailangeliccreation · September 20

    This is a lovely and adaptable piece for university students who have a jam-packed schedule to not only reduce stress but improve their overall health. Thank you for sharing!
    -Author S

    Liked by 1 person

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