I - I - I get so nervous when I write this newsletter! What
if I spell something wrong? What if I get writer's block?
What if I offend someone? What if...well...I guess that's about
it : ) It's all about anxiety before the fact, and it's one
of the most discussed issues by court reporting students. So
I've decided to devote most of this issue of The Steno Life to it.
I'm drudging up everything I have on the subject in an effort to get
you over it! My overall thought today... When you can
turn in a test and have no idea whether or not it’s a pass or
fail, you’re either totally out of touch with your writing,
or you’re exactly where you need to be – just writing.
Past issues of The Steno Life - Issue
1 Issue 2 Issue
3 Issue 4 Issue
5 Issue 6 Issue
7 Issue 8 Issue
9 Issue 10
Articles in this issue -
1 - "My First Anxiety Article!"
2 - "Mark K.'s Thoughts On Test Anxiety!"
3 - "Radio Clips About Steno Anxiety!"
4 - "SimplySteno is Closing Enrollment - Special
5 - "Test Anxiety Links"
First Anxiety Article! (back
I wrote my first article
on the topic of test anxiety about 6 years ago. Funny how it all
still applies. Enjoy!
I've been involved in court reporting for over 7 years
now - as a reader, instructor, program coordinator, cheerleader - and
2 questions come up on an almost daily basis:
1. "How long does it take to get through school?"
2. "How can I stop getting so nervous during tests?"
The answer to question number 1 is easy. It depends. It depends on your
commitment. It depends on your teachers. It depends on your natural
proficiency for the steno machine. It depends on your home life. It
depends on about a dozen other things. Whew, that was easy!
Unfortunately, question number 2 is a bit more challenging. "I
get nervous when I know the test is coming." "I'm getting
the test and then I lose it because I know I'm getting it." "I
choke during tests." If I had a dime for every time I heard one
of these comments, I'd be teaching court reporting…in the Bahamas.
First, let's figure out if you're "normal." Does everybody
have test anxiety? Does everybody get nervous, an upset stomach and
sweaty palms? You betcha! Take a poll in your class. There may be a
couple students who claim nerves never come into play, but on the whole,
everybody gets some form of test anxiety. So you're normal. Congratulations!
Now we have to determine why you are feeling this way. Is your anxiety
a result of not being prepared? Are you attending your classes the way
you should? Are you reading back your notes the way you should? Are
you studying the way you should? If you can answer "no" to
any of these, I'd have anxiety too! On the one hand, you're not giving
yourself a fair chance. You're playing the game without the proper equipment.
On the other hand, you can correct it, and that's nice to know. You
can't complain about not passing tests if you're not giving it your
all. Be fair to yourself.
Then we have the other kind of anxiety. You're fully prepared. You can
write the speed. But when you hear the word, "Ready?" you
freeze. It's an irrational, but completely normal reaction. And the
goal isn't to eradicate that nervous feeling. The goal is to overcome
that nervous feeling. Control it. Plow over it!
I speak publicly very often. It kills me…on the inside. Nobody
in the audience would know this by looking at me. They see a calm, semi-intelligent
man, boring them to tears. But on the inside my intestines are twirling
around, struggling to escape my body! Years ago, I wouldn't have been
able to overcome that feeling. Now…I just do it. I know that my
skills (like yours) go much deeper than my fears.
Now let's get down to some real ideas here! First, I'm going to assume
you're a good student. You're not your own hurdle. Okay. How can we
approach a test? "I hope I don't screw up!" "I need to
get this one!" Nope. That's setting up your own failure. You may
sneak in a pass every now and then, but on the whole, that kind of thinking
is not going to get you into the working world. A test is a chance to
show what you've learned. It's your chance to display the time you've
put in. We need tests. Passing a test is the greatest motivation of
all! And if you are properly prepared, you should be looking forward
to tests. You should be thinking about getting into that typing room
afterwards and doing the best you can. And that's it! I didn't say you
should be passing every test, just because you've been practicing hard.
That's not the way it works. I have students that can write 200, but
if I gave them a dense, medical lit at 170, many of them wouldn't write
it at 95.5% (the passing percentage in my program). Being a 200 word
per minute writer doesn't mean you can be expected to write everything
that comes your way at 200 words per minute. But if I repeated the word
"cat" at 200 words a minute to a 140 student, I'll bet they'd
get every word. Does that make them a 200 writer? Nope. You can't expect
to get everything in your speed range. It's impossible. You can only
prepare yourself to pass a fair test when it comes along. Look forward
to it! The next test could be that test! You should be eager to take
Is your heart beating fast…veins popping out on your forehead…toes
curled…jaw clenched? Either a test is coming up or you're about
to give birth. There are two battles to be won when it comes to test
anxiety, the mental, which I was just discussing, and the physical.
It's just as important. You have to condition your body for a test as
well. Your 10 fingers are doing all of the work, but it's the whole
package that makes them work properly. A few basics.
Nutrition. "Oh, geez! Don't lecture me about my diet!" Sorry,
but it's true. Why not give yourself every benefit possible. Don't go
to the test with an empty stomach. I know I can't think properly if
I'm thinking about Big Macs (not recommended before a test). Fresh fruits
and vegetables have often been recommended to reduce stress. Want to
place a hurdle in front of yourself? Drink soft drinks, eat chocolate,
fried foods, junk food, foods containing preservatives or anything else
that's high in sugar. No, sugar does not give you a "writing boost."
Enough said about that.
Avoidance. No, don't avoid the test. Avoid students who tend to
raise that anxiety in you. You know what I'm talking about. Find a group
of students who motivate each other, not those who are more than happy
to badmouth the school, badmouth tests and badmouth other students.
Buying into that kind of thinking is a progress killer. Get away from
them! They're everywhere! Like little roaches trying to bring you down!
Your body. It's a lean…mean…steno-writing machine, right?
It needs to be come test time. As you're sitting in class, preparing
to take a test, take a mental scan of your body from head to toe. Then
analyze. Start with your toes. Are they curled - rigid? Loosen them.
Let them relax and keep them that way for at least 10 seconds. Move
up to the ankles and calf muscles. Are they tight? Let them go. That's
energy you're using that can better used elsewhere. And keep moving
up your body - your legs, stomach, butt, arms, fingers, neck - whatever
you have, let it go! You will be amazed at what you realize you've been
clenching (don't forget the jaw). When you're through, you should find
yourself in a "happy" place, comfortable and alert. That's
a good time to check your posture. Make a routine out of this. Eventually
it will become second nature, and you can check it off as one less thing
to consider when taking a test.
Focal points. Some students have them and others don't. I have no preference
on the matter. I only bring this up because I once had a student complain
after a test that their focal point "ruined the test" for
them. "Why is that?" I asked. "It walked away!"
Good lesson. Never pick a spider as your focal point. Preferably pick
something that won't decide it's time to move on.
And finally…yes, finally…remember that a test is only a
test. There will be others. A single test is not an all-or-nothing proposal.
Every new test is another chance to prove what you've been practicing!
K.'s Thoughts on Test Anxiety! (back
This comes from a live chat
we did with Mark Kislingbury a couple years ago.
Here let me just copy from my book, "My System: The
Road To Realtime Excellence," Chapter 18, "Preparing for Tests."
This chapter is short and sweet, but I believe that it presents the
only tried-and-true, works-nearly-every-time method for passing tests
or competing in contests. There will be no talk of psyching ourselves
up here, no talk of confidence boosters and nerve-calmers, except for
Kislingbury rule number 14: Preparation and practice are the only way
to have real confidence. If you are not ready to take a test, then most
likely you will not pass it. If you are just on the edge of being good
enough to pass, then most likely you will not pass. But if you have
practiced, and practiced, and put in the hours so that you KNOW that
you are capable of performing easily above and beyond the test standard,
so much so that it seems almost second nature, then it is almost certain
that you WILL pass. Cramming does not work. Usually preparation must
take place for many weeks and even months before a test or contest in
order to be fully prepared.
Now, I do realize that some individuals are poor "test takers"
-- that it doesn't matter what the test is, but that just the very thought
of a "test" makes them nervous and unable to perform up to
usual standards. Again, for those individuals, there is no better confidence
builder than knowing beyond a doubt that they are fully prepared and
capable of passing the test. The more prepared you are, the less anxious
you will be.
Radio Clips About Steno Anxiety! (back
Many, many years ago, Bill
Courtland and I did an Internet radio show about stenography.
The links below are sound clips (a few minutes each) that talk about
Anxiety Clip One
Test Anxiety Clip Two
is Closing Enrollment - Special Offer! (back
No...not forever. But we will be closing open enrollment
on May 31st - that's the LAST day you can sign up. If you sign
up before then, that doesn't mean you have to start right away.
It only means that you've secured a slot to start whenever you like.
We close enrollment every now and then to keep the number of students
in our program down. Since I like the do the bulk of the work
on my own - I feel that's what students are paying for - I need to make
sure I have enough time to give them all the attention they need.
And if you join in the month
of April, I will pay for you to join NCRA if you're not already a member.
If you are, I'll pay for your next membership.
I can't say when enrollment will be open again. It could be a
few months. It depends on how many current students move into
the working world or leave our program. So if you've been thinking
of joining the SimplySteno
program, now's the time! If you have any questions about the program,
please email me at Marc@StenoLife.com. Once you speak to any of
my students, I know you'll be convinced!
Anxiety Links (back
Isn't the Internet amazing?! How did we ever live
without it? After doing much research, I've decided that the websites
below offer the best information regarding test anxiety. Much
of the advice overlaps, but that's because it makes sense. Check 'em