You Choke On Tests Know Why Test Stress Shows Up and How
To Prevent It With Mental Toughness Training.
How is your poise under test
pressure? Does your mind hold up? Do you choke? Your testing performance
is only as good as your mental game. Where are your prime test choking
arenas? Essays? Short answers? Multiple Choice questions? Timed
tests? Does the pressure of the situation get to you? Can you handle
the stress? This article explains choking and gives you and understanding
of mental toughness, with three key strategies for learning it.
Why You Choke On Tests
Know Why Test Stress Shows Up And
How To Prevent It With Mental Toughness Training
Bill Cole, MS, MA
Founder and CEO
William B. Cole Consultants
Silicon Valley, California
How is your poise under test pressure? Does your
mind hold up? Do you choke? Your testing performance is only as
good as your mental game. Where are your prime test choking arenas?
Essays? Short answers? Multiple Choice questions? Timed tests? Does
the pressure of the situation get to you? Can you handle the stress?
This article explains choking and gives you and understanding of
mental toughness, with three key strategies for learning it.
When I coach students of all ages and levels, mental toughness training
is a central theme cutting across everything we do. The essence
of being mentally tough in testing situations is being able to maintain
your focus to perform the way you know you can.
What Happens When You Choke On A Test?
Choking is a particularly deadly form of being
nervous. It's a full-blown case of nerves that stops you from concentrating,
being alert, accessing your answers from memory and from thinking
clearly. How many of these choking symptoms do you experience when
you become nervous?
- You distract yourself by worrying about your performance.
- You emotionally over-react to your mistakes.
- You think your way through your performance, instead of being
- You worry and try to control things you can't control.
- Your muscles tighten up and your breathing becomes shallower
- You think you're in trouble when you're not.
- You freeze up or rush, or leave details out.
- You try too hard to succeed.
Choking Begins For One Or Both Of These Reasons
- You make a personal assessment that this test is extremely
important, and that failing would have seriously negative consequences.
- You have a negative reaction to an error you make, and that
negativity amplifies to cause a downward spiraling disruption
of your performance.
Mental Toughness Lets You Perform Under Pressure
A mental toughness training program gives you
anti-choking skills. Mentally tough students maintain their peak
performance skills under pressure.
Mentally tough students handle testing adversity, uncertainty, the
set-backs with poise and determination. You can decide to be mentally
tough. If you do, you'll have these mental characteristics:
- Your test performances will be consistent.
- You'll handle pressures well.
- You won't blow up the importance of the test in your own mind.
- You'll know how to access and stay in the zone during a performance.
- You'll have faith that things will work out.
- You'll reduce worry to a minimum, and actually channel the
nervous energy into positive uses.
- You'll handle weariness and discomfort well.
- You'll tolerate frustrations and inconveniences well.
- You won't be emotionally reactive to errors.
- You'll maintain focus on your performance.
- You'll be flexible and adaptive.
- You'll thrive on stress and challenge.
Three Mental Toughness Strategies To Prevent Choking
Choking can be minimized by learning peak performance
mind tools, and through proper mental practice strategies.
- Make your test practice situations as similar to the real thing
as possible to simulate pressure. Include every realistic detail
you can think of.
- Make your test practices more pressure-filled and demanding
than the real thing will actually be, and the real deal will seem
- Develop the mindset of "I love pressure" and then jump into
it and enjoy the challenge of winning in that situation.
No one can make you choke without your permission.
The power to control and stop choking is within you. You can't find
that mental power anywhere else. Take charge of your tests and build
the mental toughness that top students have.
Knowing about educational psychology and being test savvy
is certainly an important part of being a good student, but top students who
get consistently high grades also have a knowledge base and applied skills in
stress control and peak performance. You need to know how to manage your mind,
calm your emotions and relax your body so you can get into the “test zone”,
that powerful, deeply focused mind-body state that gives you excellent recall,
mental alertness and clarity. You need to learn these skills and become mentally
tough so you can handle the extreme pressures of academia. Other mental skills
training you need are visualization, confidence-building, mental readiness training
and motivation skills.
To learn this set of mental toughness, zone, and stress control skills, sign up for our special Test Anxiety Stress Reduction Program. You can also take this no-cost assessment of your test-taking skills.
Copyright © 2011-
Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.
Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority
on peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and
CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps
organizations and professionals achieve more success in business,
life and sports. He is also the Founder and President of the International
Mental Game Coaching Association (www.mentalgamecoaching.com),
an organization dedicated to advancing the research, development,
professionalism and growth of mental game coaching worldwide. He
is a multiple Hall-Of-Fame honoree as an athlete, coach and school
alumnus, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published book author
and articles author, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league
pro sports, big-time college athletics and corporate America. For
a free, extensive article archive, or for questions and comments
visit him at www.MentalGameCoach.com.
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