The GED Test: Overcome Test Anxiety, Increase Your Score

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If the number one fear is public speaking, then the number two fear is probably test taking. GED students are no different than most students and adult learners who experience anxiety or tension at test time. And they have just as much — if not more — at stake, since passing the GED test is so critical to educational and career opportunities.

Test anxiety is normal, and a healthy amount of test stress can be good. Stress launches adrenaline, a brain chemical that can make a test candidate more alert. But too much test stress inhibits clear thought, creates fatigue and reduces performance. Months of studying are ineffective if you freeze or fall apart at the GED test site. So what’s the right balance? What’s the difference between a healthy and productive amount of test stress and the kind of anxiety that overcomes test candidates?

Test Anxiety Strategies

Preparation: Consider the two-part test required for a drivers license. Most drivers are able to quickly memorize the rules of the road a day or two before the 20-minute test, and perform without problem once the testing officer is in the passenger seat. But what would happen to a driving candidate who never looked at the driver’s manual, or had never been on the road? Not only would this want-to-be motorist fail to perform, there’d be high anxiety in the driver’s seat.

Preparing for the GED is the best way to reduce test anxiety and perform well. A good preparation program should include study and GED practice tests in all areas of the 7.5 hour test battery, along with marathon study sessions reflective of the actual test. A good study program increases and improves knowledge. You can’t cram for the GED test like a driving test; you need to thoroughly learn knowledge, and know how to use it.

Practice tests teach test candidates how to use knowledge, provide testing experience and are excellent indicators for measuring skill strengths and weaknesses. Official GED practice tests also provide the best way to get familiar with the test structure, question and answer layout, test timing and test expectations. Then, at test time, the test will be a known factor instead of an unknown factor. Test familiarity, along with knowledge ownership, helps candidates have confidence in their abilities and demonstrate their skills. These are prime strategies in reducing fear, overcoming test anxiety, and ensuring a solid test performance.

Time Management: Many GED students express concerns about the timing of the test. Some may be slow test takers; some don’t have a feel for how to pace themselves through the test. And others get easily distracted by test problems – they concentrate on a few problems and score well but find they’re soon out of time and can’t complete the whole test. Or, test candidates may rush through the test because of time concerns — while they finish test sections early they later learn their answers were incorrect. And there’s no score given for finishing first, or finishing fast.

Timing varies for each test, and the full battery includes science, social studies, reading and writing and the two-part math test. But on average, allow yourself about 1.25 minutes for each question during study sessions. Practice test-taking and problem-solving using this average to develop or improve time management skills. This strategy will serve to reduce test anxiety about timing, and help candidates learn the art of pacing.

Mind & Body Prep: While test candidates ensure that their abilities and time management skills are sharp, they’ll also want to explore mental and physical ways to reduce test stress and incorporate stress reducers into their GED study program. Good nutrition, exercise and healthy rest patterns are important, since the GED test is a scholarly thinking marathon. And knowing how to relax at test time is equally important; learn and practice relaxation techniques during long study sessions.

Know the Cues: Test anxiety doesn’t just happen. It happens on cue. And for many GED test candidates, anxiety is a habit. Just like the anxiety response is learned, it can be unlearned or shifted to a level where anxiety works for the test, instead of against it. Here are some typical test stress cues and strategies to manage them:

— Feeling overwhelmed? Take it step by step. Read directions carefully. Skip questions which seem overwhelming and move through another part first. Then return.

— Nervous and jittery? Test burnout halfway through? Avoid processed foods, fast foods, along with snacks and beverages with high-sugar content. Avoid caffeine.

— Feeling tense? Stiff neck? Eye strain? Change positions. Stretch. Breathe deeply. Rest your eyes. Clear your mind. Start afresh.

— Sudden blank? Can’t think? Frozen? Fearful? Relax. Skip the question and go on. You’re in control. You’re ready, prepared and doing your best. Take the test at your own pace, and the pacing you’ve learned and practiced will come back to you, along with the knowledge in your vault.

— Test fatigue? Pause. Eat a healthy snack. Use relaxation techniques. Pause. Clear your mind. Give yourself positive reinforcement. And visualize your goal.

Just a little anxious?

Expect it. Surrender to it. Even welcome it. Know that some anxiety can help you perform, provide energy, and increase thinking clarity. Acknowledge test stress as a further reminder of the importance of your goal. Make it work for you.

More Resources

For additional GED study tips, test information and free resources on the GED test, including financial aid and student support, visit www.PassGED.com. The website also provides links to federal agencies and nonprofits that serve GED students, instructors and workforce development programs. For a list of official GED testing sites and administrative contacts, visit GED Test Sites.

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