Test Anxiety: you can overcome it to achieve admissions success

It might be the GMAT, GRE, LSAT or TOEFL. The fact is that you need to do well on such standardized tests to achieve admission to your dream school. You’ve been preparing for weeks, perhaps even months. You know the material cold, but then on test day, you don’t score up to your potential.

So, you prep again, engage an expensive tutor, practice even more and then re-test. Again, the score is way short of what you need. You find yourself confused and conflicted. How could this be? You’re smart and highly accomplished. You did so well in college and are considered very successful at work. How could you allow this test, passed by thousands of others every year, to derail your future plans?

While preparing, or perhaps while taking the actual test, have you found yourself experiencing distracting thoughts? Lack of focus? Self-doubt? Or perhaps it’s physical sensations such as increased heart rate, sweaty palms or intense headaches. You might even have difficulty relaxing or sleeping.

These are just a few of the mental and physical symptoms of what is commonly called “test anxiety.” As you have experienced or can imagine, test anxiety grossly interferes with your ability to be successful on standardized tests.

Test anxiety can develop for a number of reasons:

  1. Prior negative experiences with test taking may spark current feelings of stress and anxiety.
  2. Once stress and anxiety are experienced, a fear of re-experiencing those feelings prompts anxiety itself. The resulting “fear of the fear” interferes with learning and performance.
  3. Negative expectations are expressed in words to oneself, along with mental pictures and physical symptoms, reinforcing poor performance.
  4. There could be a biological/genetic component, confirmed by symptoms of anxiety in parents and/or siblings.
  5. One could have self-esteem issues, especially true for high achieving and perfection-oriented individuals. Once self-esteem is compromised, self-doubt and fear of failure prevail.

With competition for admission to top schools being so high, it’s imperative that you achieve a score that confirms your competence, adds value to your candidacy and increases your chances for success. To assist applicants who find themselves hitting the wall on standardized tests, we have developed a counseling program that helps them understand and control their test anxiety to actualize dramatically improved scores.

We accomplish this by giving the test taker the knowledge and control to improve his or her actual performance on test day. We help him or her to experience a positive shift that instills confidence to mitigate doubt and conquer the obstacles that block success.

The key components of our 4-step coaching process include:

  1. Direct coaching by a licensed psychologist with personal follow-up.
  2. Private 1-on-1 telephone or Skype sessions that address individual needs in real time.
  3. A customized and adaptive set of tactics that accommodates busy and complicated work schedules.
  4. Proven, research-based techniques that are targeted, practical and easy to embrace.

Through personalized dialogue, concrete and tangible interventions can help you gain control of what is interfering with your test success. We help you develop an individualized program that you can institute in real-time to mitigate nervousness, apprehension or uneasiness. This process can be accomplished in the span of a few weeks.

The results to date have been very strong for a wide range of individuals. Feedback from those who completed the process is overwhelmingly positive, such as these two:

“You taught me to handle stress under pressure intelligently, and not to confuse motivation for pressure. I have adopted several of the techniques into my daily routine. Your advice affects my life in my daily routine and has also helped me improve my scores considerably. Knowing you’re on my side and available to help me makes all the difference.”

Larry C.

“Because of my anxiety when sitting for the test, I failed to complete the sections and would often dwell on certain problems. You gave me the tools and confidence necessary to score well on the test. However, the most important thing you did was provide me with a skill set to not only do well on the exam, but also to be successful in my professional and personal life.”

Robert K.

So, if you’re feeling test anxiety as you strive for standardized test success, don’t give up. Don’t settle for a lower score. There is a proven solution worth exploring. For a free, expert analysis of your test-anxiety profile, please email me in confidence at drjim@mbaexchange.com.

Dr. James Spitalny, Ed. D.

About the author: A licensed clinical psychologist skilled in diagnostic testing and counseling, Dr. Spitalny is a respected and accomplished professional serving individuals, institutions and corporations. He holds a Doctorate in counseling psychology from Rutgers University, Master’s degree in clinical psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Ohio University. Dr. Spitalny specializes in helping applicants overcome issues regarding test and admissions interview anxiety. He has been a senior associate of The MBA Exchange since 1996.