Conventional wisdom tells us that all we need to do is work hard, and high test scores will inevitably follow. As anyone who has taken a high-stakes test knows, the real story is not always so simple.
If you think about how much time you actually spend physically taking tests, they have a disproportionately large role in your psyche. How you perform during a few hours, while hunched over a computer in some strange building, can have major consequences. Which medical school you attend to has a lot to do with what job you will get as a physician.
Hard Work is Not Enough
Hard work alone is not enough for you to score your best: You can spend hours memorizing organic chemistry and physics equations, but if you don’t learn effective test strategies or feel confident when you go into the test, you will not achieve your full potential.
It’s therefore no surprise that anxiety sets in when these tests loom large in your mind as a decider of your fate. In fact, if you go into the test feeling anything but calm and focused, you risk a subpar performance. You’ll be glad to know there are techniques out there to help alleviate such anxiety.
First, here are some facts. We all know test anxiety can be detrimental, not only to a student’s health, but also to your performance. The hard-science research indicates a student’s score can be compromised anywhere from 12 to 35 percent as a result of test anxiety. This means the difference between a disappointing score and a solid, high score. There is a way beyond this!
Activating your Full Potential
The best way to activate your whole self and awaken your full potential—heart, mind, and body—so that you will achieve your best score–—is to get into the mindset of a doctor, scientist and top-notch athlete. In other words, it’s not enough to study the content and strategy that the test calls for, you must embody what we call, Full Potential principles, which are well established techniques in the health, psychological, and sports psychology fields. Interestingly, they are cutting edge in the field of education.
We have found that test takers who applied a combination of new learning techniques performed significantly higher than those who did not. As such, as a company, we began designing our Full Potential method, a system that integrates human-potential tools such as neuro-linguistic programming hypnosis, meditation, guided visualization, Emotional Freedom Technique, Gamma Brain Waves, common-sense wellness practices, and much more to help you create the strategy you need to succeed.
The Full Potential method starts with the recognition that all the knowledge in the world won’t help you if you can’t access it easily and quickly while taking a test. This simple insight creates a profound shift in priorities from narrowly focusing only on content—what the test taker needs to know—to also addressing how the test taker will be able to access and utilize this knowledge during the test. The ‘how’ on the MCAT (and other standardized tests) involves more than just regurgitating information. Those who succeed usually draw on different faculties, from intuitive judgment to critical thinking to psychological ‘buy in.’ In other words, successful test takers draw on their whole self.
Enlisting methods to help you identify behaviors that don’t serve the mission at hand: feelings of resistance, avoidance, and insecurity; and provide solutions for the symptoms of test anxiety and stress are tantamount. As you shift your belief and behavior patterns to train your mind to reach its optimal test taking state, at your will, you’ll begin to experience benefits beyond the test as well. Whether your test anxiety symptoms manifest as acute or chronic, these practices are solutions to give you peace of mind. And they have no expiration date; you can use them again and again in other situations where you don’t feel your best self. These full potential techniques are for your whole life; not just those hours studying or taking tests. At their core, the techniques introduced here are all designed to help you believe in yourself, and then ensure that everything else in your life co-conspires for your success.
Breathe. Breathe Deep. Ahhhhh….
There are many approaches to help you reach a state of calm control. The following is one of many, and is based on Heart Math’s Quick Coherence Technique. It is an easy, but powerful technique to help bring students back to center, feel more relaxed and in control, and even empowered to remember a time when they were focused. These methods can then be applied when focusing on testing situations, and you can do it yourself to help gain center. Go through each of the following steps, modeling the behavior, and speaking through each one of them.
Heart Focus. Focus your attention on the area around your heart, the area in the center of your chest. If you prefer, the first couple of times you try it, place your hand over the center of your chest and your other hand on the belly for grounding and a kind of heart-body connection, and to help focus attention in the heart area.
Heart Breathing. Breathe deeply but normally. You may feel as if your breath is coming in and going out through your heart area. Imagine it is. As you inhale, feel as if your breath is flowing in through the heart, and as you exhale, feel it leaving through this area. Breathe slowly and casually, a little deeper than normal. Continue breathing with ease until you find a natural inner rhythm that feels good to you. You may feel a shift here.
Heart Feeling. As you maintain your heart focus and heart breathing, activate a positive feeling. Recall a positive feeling, a time when you felt good inside, and take a moment to re-experience the feeling. One of the easiest ways to generate a positive, heart-based feeling is to remember a special place you’ve been to or the love you feel for a close friend or family member or treasured pet. It can be anything. This is the most important step.
Repeat as needed.
This is just one of many solutions you can use to get into the best mindset Once you isolate the ‘symptoms’ of anxiety, you can find a solution. You can speak to a counselor, friends or a psychologist to come up with additional solutions. You can also contact us for personalized MCAT stress management solutions. You can also listen our Full Potential Audio sampler, which can help to relax and focus you for the test. And you can even make sure you’re working with a tutor and getting the content and strategy down. While the MCAT is standardized, everyone is unique, and finding a way to combat your anxiety and other self limiting thoughts will be, too.
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