This is the second in a series of five blog posts for the article, “The Rules of Game Day” by BrainStorm’s Chief Brainiac, Scott Doty.
In this series, you’ll learn test-taking tricks, tips, and find resources for further review.
How to STORM THE TEST
II. Prevailing Mentality Faux Pas
Emotional focal points, when reinforced over time, become what I call “prevailing mentalities.” Is your prevailing mentality in life generally one of “The world is a safe place; I feel secure and happy”? Or is it closer to “I am unworthy of respect; I am stupid”, or perhaps “I’m afraid of taking risks”? Whatever our typical mentality is in life, we can work—through conscientious endeavor—to achieve a prevailing mentality on test day that is most advantageous.
Before unveiling to you what I believe to be the most beneficial prevailing mentality—the one that unlocks all the doors to academic success—I would first like to point out typical “prevailing mentality faux pas.” Typically, people choose (largely unconsciously) a prevailing mentality the day of a test that is insidious and undermining. The most common of these are Quality, Clock, and Stakes.
A Quality focus sounds promising, but it is not. People whose emotional commitment on test day is toward quality often struggle: they over-commit to any one question and get lost in it at the expense of the bigger picture, and they often run out of time. They also can become extremely frustrated when they struggle with as few as two or three questions in a row, as this blatantly undermines their main goal of getting every question fantastically, flawlessly correct. People in this category make great physicist or engineers because of their commitment to quality and precision—but they are not gifted test takers.
A Clock focus implies that the test taker is obsessed with the fear of running out of time, often to the extent that he or she is unable to truly engage with the academic material because of a constant time preoccupation. Running out of time is the cardinal sin of test taking, this student thinks. This person may indeed hit the goal of finishing on time, but at what cost? Typically, at the very high cost of sacrificed quality. In certain standardized tests like the SAT, finishing on time is far from the main strategic goal—but an explanation as to why is lost on a clock-focused test taker.
A Stakes focus is an equally detrimental prevailing mentality, for it keeps the test taker focused outside of the present moment. It is the constant, badgering inner voice that reminds the test taker that the current test has HUGE future implications. The imposing specter of the test’s implications completely consumes the test taker’s emotional energy and conscious focus. Instead of looking forward to the test with joy and optimism, he or she dreads the test, fears it—and makes it bigger than it really is. These test takers are typically quite nervous, fidgety, and scatterbrained—only to become lucid minutes after the test booklet has been officially handed to the proctor.
All of these mentalities are destructive, and answer the oft-asked “If I am generally a very intelligent person, why do I struggle so much on tests?” There are other destructive prevailing mentalities, of course—fear of others’ judgments of results, indolence and avoidance of self-challenge, etc—but I find the three mentioned above to be most prevalent and pernicious.
Read more from The Rules of Game Day series:
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