STRATEGIES TO REDUCE PRETEST ANXIETY
If you're a worrier, be honest with yourself. Are you worried because you really haven't prepared for the test? Here's the reality check: If you've gotten decent grades in your high school AP U.S. History course and are following your hour-a-day test-prep schedule, you need to deal with your real problem: chronic anxiety. This condition is nothing to be ashamed of; the United States itself once suffered from overwhelming anxiety. In the inaugural words of longest-serving president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts." If you have done the study basics but are restless, check out the relaxation techniques in the following sections. Relaxation doesn't just keep you comfortable; staying loose also helps you perform better on the test.
If your worry is justified because you really haven't done the preparation you need, consider the words of Death Valley Scotty. In the early 1900s, Scotty was a prospector in the hottest place in the United States: Death Valley, California. Scotty never found gold, but he did find a beautiful oasis and many adventures, laughs, and friends. Scotty said, "There's just two things aren't worth worrying about: things you can change and things you can't." If you still have a few days to get a study program together, start working right now. Doing something takes your mind off your anxiety.
Lots of people, auditory learners or not, feel better hearing progressive-relaxation steps read out loud to them. You can get a spoken recording of relaxation instructions on the web. Many slightly different versions of this technique are available; all of them work if you let them.
What students overseas are studying
While Americans are sweating the APs and SATs, students in Japan are attending juku, or private cram schools. Japanese students sometimes go to juku every day after school and up to 16 hours a day on weekends to prepare for "examination hell" in January, which will decide their university future. Row upon row of quiet students stare at the blackboard. Kids in the back even look through binoculars to grasp every word.
Meanwhile, in jolly old England, students are obsessing about the A levels. A levels come in a variety of subjects, just like the APs, and you need to pass at least three to get into a good university. U.K. schools have grades like those in the United States, except that the land of Harry Potter has not forgotten about E. Average grade distribution is 10 percent A, 15 percent B, 10 percent C, 15 percent D, and 20 percent E. A further 20 percent are allowed an O-level pass, which is sort of like saying, "Thanks for showing up." The real flunkies get a U and have to play in rock-and-roll bands.
Relaxation is a natural state: it's what you do when you are asleep. You can learn to do progressive relaxation while you're awake and use it to clear your mind. First, get into comfortable clothing and choose a quiet space. Then follow these steps:
1. Lie flat on your back, with your eyes closed.
2 . Feel your feet getting heavy. Consciously relax them and let them sink down. Start with your toes and move up your foot to your ankles.
3 . Feel your knees getting heavy. Consciously relax them and let them sink down.
4 . Feel your upper legs and thighs getting heavy. Consciously relax them and feel them sink down.
5 . Feel your abdomen and chest while you breathe. Consciously let them relax. Let your breathing be deep and regular. Let your abdomen and chest sink down.
6 . Feel your back down to your upper legs. Consciously relax and let your back sink down.
7 . Feel your hands getting heavy. Consciously relax them and feel them sink down.
8 . Feel your arms getting heavy. Consciously relax them and feel them sink down.
9 . Feel your shoulders getting heavy. Consciously relax them and feel them sink down.
10 . Feel your head and neck getting heavy. Consciously relax your neck and feel your head sink down.
11. Feel your mouth and jaw. Pay attention to your jaw muscles and unclench them if they are tight. Feel your mouth and jaw relax.
12 . Feel your eyes. Are you forcibly closing your eyelids? Consciously relax your eyelids and feel the tension slide off your eyes.
13 . Mentally scan down your body. If you find any place that's still tense, consciously re- lax that place and let it sink down.
14 . Lie still for 5 minutes.