Signs of Anxiety That May Require Professional Help
If you experience significant anxiety symptoms, such as muscle twitching, chronic insomnia, nausea, hyperventilation episodes, or chest tightness when you think about taking exams or while taking them, then self-help tactics may not be enough. If you experience several of these symptoms and they are severe, seek professional help from either a psychiatrist or a cognitive psychologist who is experienced in helping people overcome situational anxiety. Therapies may include anti-anxiety medications, behavioral retraining, or a variety of other interventions. Do not delay making an appointment—each of these treatment modalities requires time to become effective.
Managing Time During the Exam
Don’t skip around frantically searching for easier items. Doing this can result in missing items and will leave you feeling out of control in the test situation—something you definitely want to avoid. Also, because you won’t easily be able to estimate how many items you have left to answer at any given point, skipping around makes following any pacing plan very difficult.
Decision Rule One
Use decision rules to make the most of your testing time. Everyone needs at least two decision rules. Rule One is used when you are able to narrow the possible answers to two options. At this point, self-honesty is paramount. If you have already used recall and any strategies appropriate to such a question, it’s time to choose and move on. Rule One prevents you from ineffectually reading and re-reading the item. Mark the upper of the final two choices and move to the next question. The second half of Rule One says that the next time you are faced with the same “final two choices” dilemma, you should mark the lower of the final two choices and then move on. This is actually a time-management rule, designed to prevent you from obsessing between those two options.
Throughout the exam, change an answer only if you realize that you initially misread the question or because new and specific recall occurs that now allows you to answer the question correctly.
Decision Rule Two
The second time-management rule pertains to questions about material that you’ve never come across before. You are unlikely to encounter many of these “clueless” items. Most test takers report that on standardized examinations, they encounter only a handful of items that they truly have no idea how to answer. If you encounter a question dealing with totally unknown content, then have a favorite letter between A and E in mind, mark the choice that corresponds to the favorite letter, and move on. There is little to be gained from re-reading the item multiple times.
Remember to answer all questions on the PANCE. Every blank item counts as an error, so you might as well take a guess.