What is Test Anxiety?
Unless you have nerves of steel, you’re probably going to feel at least some level of anxiety during any given test. It’s only natural. It’s especially common when the test you’re taking is the patent bar exam. The complex material, the time limit, and the confusing questions all contribute to the stress. You also don’t want to fail it and have your peers find out why you still can’t get a job as a patent attorney after all those years of law school.
The pace of the patent bar is often grueling. It’s much more obnoxious than any test you could ever take in a regular class. Regular classes don’t check ID’s and have proctors stationed at every corner of the room (like lookouts at a prison facility). You’ll be forced to breath in stale air (because they won’t have windows open in these places) and the noise of other nervous students shuffling around, coughing, clearing their throats, or even sniffling will form a dull murmur.
It’s like the patent bar is out to make you a nervous wreck. Maybe the creators want to see someone leave the room screaming like a banshee. But don’t fall for it. This is only a test. I don’t care what’s riding on it, you can always re-take it if you have to.
A little bit of test anxiety is only natural. In fact, it can be helpful for keeping you sharp. You really should be a little anxious about the time limit. You do have to make it through all 100 questions before your time runs out so you don’t want to leisurely stroll through the questions. A little bit of test anxiety is only going to help you keep on pace.
But severe test anxiety can be a real problem. Some people experience anxiety so bad that they completely freeze up. They can’t think straight. Rather than work their way through the test questions quickly and on pace, they flit around from one question to the next. They worry about failure and let that evil little word become the focus of their test session. That’s when hard-core test anxiety can set in.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Test Anxiety?
Low grade symptoms of test anxiety include; perspiration, tense muscles, and sweaty palms. More severe symptoms of test anxiety include; a rapid heart beat, headache, nausea and even an upset stomach.
Test anxiety and nervousness can keep you from organizing your thoughts and recalling concepts you may already know, but are now having trouble retrieving. It may also cause you to have difficulty reading and understanding the test questions. You may blank out on things you would normally know.
A severe bout of test anxiety may result in a failing score on an exam that an individual might easily pass or even be capable of scoring in the top percentile. It’s that debilitating.
What are Effective Strategies for Overcoming Test Anxiety During the Patent Bar?
If you are prone to test anxiety, there are things you can do to help prevent it and/or keep it under control.
The underlying cause of most test anxiety is low confidence. So that means in order to curb test anxiety, you need to boost your confidence about the exam. Simply enough, most test anxiety can be decreased just by preparing better for the patent bar exam!
Here are a few tips for putting test anxiety behind you:
- Learn the material that will be covered in the exam as best you can. This means you will need to start preparing early and studying. In most cases three to six months is plenty of time to prepare for the patent bar exam. However, many people have a full work load, families at home, and/school. If you’re in this situation, your preparation can stretch over 12 months if not longer. There is a lot to learn. But by making sure you start preparing early, you stand the best chance of walking into the exam well prepared.
- Prepare yourself by locating the test center location the day or two before. Lay out everything you need for the test beforehand. This means you should gather your ID and your paperwork the day before the exam.
- Wake up early the day of the exam so you don’t need to rush.
- Eat a good breakfast (fresh fruit and vegetables can help reduce stress).
- Do not eat or drink anything with caffeine (if it can be helped). If you’re hooked on your morning coffee than maybe you don’t want to change that routine on exam day. Try to avoid sugar and greasy foods as best you can.
- Think about something else to try to take your mind off your anxiety.
- Take a short walk before the exam or even during your break between sessions just to get your blood flowing.
- Visualize your success on the exam.
- Stay away from other test takers at the exam who are negative and anxious.
Negative Thoughts Lead to Anxiety
Something else you really need to be aware of is that your confidence level often dictates how well you’ll do. This holds true for more than just exams. If you don’t think the job interview you’re going to have later on this week is going to go so well, then it probably won’t. If you don’t think you’re going to score well on an exam, then guess what … you probably won’t.
In order to curb these negative thoughts from creeping in and leading to test anxiety, you need to recognize them. As soon as you start thinking negatively, you need to immediately stop yourself from carrying out the thought and focusing on it. Here are a few phrases individuals prone to test anxiety find themselves thinking:
- I should have studied more.
- I’ll never get through this.
- What’s wrong with me?
- I must be stupid.
- There’s no way I’ll do good on this test.
- I can’t remember anything.
- I might as well give up.
- Why do I bother to try?
- My mind is a blank.
- This is terrible.
- I’m just no good at this.
- I’m not smart enough.
- I must be the dumbest person here.
- Everyone else is doing better than me.
Even if you don’t get a full blown round of test anxiety, thoughts like these really aren’t going to do you any good. So blast them out of your mind. Any time any of these thoughts pop into your mind, you really need to do your best to push them out. This goes for during studying as well as while you’re taking the exam.
Your negative thoughts need to be wiped away. Do your best to think of something else, anything. Your dog, what you’re wearing, what you’ll have to eat later on, what you need to get from the store today. Think about anything to keep your mind away from negative thoughts.
It takes practice, but soon you’ll be replacing these negative thoughts with positive ones of you passing the patent bar exam!
Reducing Test Anxiety
Remember to relax, you are in full control. Take slow, deep breaths as soon as you notice any feelings of anxiety. Focus on what you need to do, which is to just sit calmly and answer questions. If you put in the time to prepare for the patent bar, then you need to approach this as your chance to show you know your stuff.
Realize that you will likely always have some fear, just be in control of it and focus on your progress.