How to Pass Exams on the First Try With Less Stress

by Alissa Gauger, MBA

You and your staff do not need to repeatedly fail exams, go through months of dread or waste resources anymore. Here are some simple techniques you can try to improve your results. 

First, what do you believe about the exam you need to take? Here are some examples:

  • If I don’t pass this exam I will lose everything (my job, my practice, my self respect…).
  • I have to pass the exam to prove myself (to myself, my clients, colleagues, family, etc.) If I don’t, it will disappoint them and be personally devastating.
  • It will be a waste of time and money if I fail.
  • If I pass the test I need to learn a lot more and become an expert. People will expect more from me and that will be too much pressure.
  • I don’t know if I want to be in this business/have this job and this test will seal the deal.
  • If I fail I will not be considered an expert and will have trouble attracting the right clients.

The beliefs that you have about the exam have a strong impact on the outcome. Here are some ways to question your thoughts and replace the ones that do not serve you.

1) Ask yourself “Is this belief true?” 

2) Flip the belief to the opposite. Is this actually more true than the original thought?

3) Add: “I’m having the thought…” to the beginning of the sentence. 

4) Ask yourself, am I in someone else’s business?

Second, figure out HOW you are taking the exam.

There are many ways to approach a test. A powerful way to increase your chances of success is to calm your fight or flight response (let’s call it your “lizard” since it originates in your Reptilian Mind). It is important to do this while you prepare AND while you actually take the exam. Because you may have some beliefs about the exam, your lizard may become triggered by two things—a sense of lack and/or attack. Lack could be that if you do not pass you think will not be able to produce an income, have a job, have respect—in other words there will be some type of scarcity (time, money, resources, etc). Attack could be a feeling that your expertise is in question or your practice in jeopardy. There are countless lack and attack scenarios that your lizard may perceive. They may be very irrational, but that does not mean they are not affecting you.

When you are in fight or flight your brain is very black and white. After all, it would not serve you well in an actual emergency such as being attacked by a bear to brainstorm lots of new ideas, right? Your options in a state of fight or flight are negotiation (let’s talk about this), flight (get away mentally or physically), fight (mental, verbal, physical, etc) or freeze (shut down). When you are in this state you do not have access to all of the knowledge held in your higher mind. Your lizard brain does not have a hard drive. You will be fueled by adrenaline and experiencing high levels of stress hormones. If this is how it feels to take exams there is another way!

Here are some tips:

1) Practice taking the exam observing how your body reacts to it.

2) Learn how to calm your body throughout the process of studying and taking the test. Some examples are taking slow, deep breaths, thinking about your five senses, reassuring yourself, or thinking about gratitude.

3) Study in a calm state and take the test in a calm state.

4) Relax your body fully before taking the exam.

Please join me for a 90-minute telecourse exclusive to Northwestern Mutual to learn and practice these concepts. Uncover your own belief system about exams to set yourself up for a wonderful career. Let’s test this out, shall we?