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Become a Master at "Deep Work"


After much studying, the day of your test has finally arrived.


You walk through the door, take your assigned seat, and prepare yourself to begin. As soon as you realize that the clock’s already ticking, though, your mind shuts off. Blink of an eye and you’re grasping at straws to even write down your name. Whatever you learned during the past few weeks is no longer with you!


Many students struggle to understand the true nature of reading comprehension. When they hear that time is involved, they consider it an exercise in speed. These people often panic and anxiety takes over. Fear impairs the way your brain works, stopping it from dealing with everything but the simplest of tasks.


In truth, limiting the time at your disposal to take an exam is not intended to make you run through the test. If these exams were a race, only those who finished first would ever be able to pass them. Instead, reading comprehension tests aim to test how you can cope with pressure. It tests how accurate you can continue to be when your anxiety insists that you rush.


You always have time to be correct.


A timed test truly does mimic a real-life situation; complete with all the stress that comes with it. When dealing with customers or holding a conversation, you won’t have the luxury of taking a break and thinking things through, but you will have the time to do focused, efficient work at a productive pace.


Unfortunately, its not easy to manage the time pressure and the feeling that you don't have enough time to complete the toughest and most time-consuming questions. Convincing your brain that you have enough time to finish your question analysis might be challenging at first, but being able to stay focused is extremely effective when dealing with time-induced stress and anxiety.


Try my three anxiety relief techniques below if you find that you're not performing where you expected under time pressure:


1. Defeat Anxiety with The Proper Attitude


Managing test anxiety means being mindful of your anxiety and negative testing attitude before you even get out of bed. Among the many thoughts that will be flooding your head, your job is to pay attention to the most stressful ones, and 'take out the trash' before your exam starts. Remind yourself that you've been training for your test; you aren’t taking this test without some sort of preparation. It’s highly likely that you are already aware of the basics, that you know how to eliminate wrong answers, and you've taken simulated practice exams. So relax. Enjoy your morning, have a delicious breakfast, and take some time for a walk, meditation, or some time to pet your dog. You deserve it.



2. Don’t stop your deep work.


Don't stop working on a tough question just because its tough. Regardless of how much time pressure you feel, there's no need to panic and look at the clock for reassurance in the middle step of a multi-step problem. Moving on and thinking you can come back to the question later presumes that your 'future self' will be better equipped to knock out the question than your present self; but that presumption is false. In fact, it prevents you from concentrating on your deep work.


‘Deep work’ is exactly the kind of work you need to do on a standardized test because it’s your brain working at its optimum focus and potential. Whenever you are distracted, your deep work stops abruptly.  And, whenever your deep work stops, you don’t pick up where you left off once you regain focus; instead, you have to remind yourself where you were, which takes precious seconds off the clock.  So, anything you can do to avoid being distracted by time is good!



3. “If there is a way, stay. If you don’t know, go.”


Every now and then, you might be unable to answer a specific question. Perhaps the wording is tricky or your mind is drawing a blank. The reason behind this setback varies— sometimes we freeze under stress and can’t access information we stored in our brain.

What you should avoid, though, is grinding to a halt rather than looking for a solution. Each correct answer takes you a step closer to your goal. Instead of succumbing to anxiety, come up with a proper strategy which gives you options of what you could do to keep moving and picking up points.


Remember our motto: “If there is a way, stay. If you don’t know, go.”


Once you quiet the anxiety that prevents you from completing your deep work on test day, you'll see what it means to test at your best.