Don’t let anxiety sabotage your performance on the licensing exams! With careful organization and a strategic approach to your preparation, you can overcome the anxiety that naturally accompanies a high-stakes exam.
The Common Problem
Speaking with licensing candidates over many years, I find there is one shared experience among most, if not all – stress. Being stressed when facing one of the most important exams in your life is understandable and natural. However, there are things that you can do as part of your preparation that can significantly reduce your stress and boost your confidence.
Keys to Managing Stress and Performing Better
With an enormous amount of material to study and absorb, a short amount of time to prepare, and a multiple-choice exam the likes of which you have not written before, it is natural that you become stressed and overwhelmed. Stress and anxiety can prevent you from preparing effectively, creating doubt and a loss of confidence, and affecting your performance on the exam. However, there are ways that you can claim control over stress, and it starts by doing the following:
1. Do an honest assessment of your knowledge and abilities
The LSO materials cover many topics and are extensive and dense. They contain complex concepts, rules, and legislation. Much of the material will be new to you, and all of it is fair game for the licensing examination. By carefully assessing your strengths and weaknesses in the different topics, you can prepare a strategic plan and study schedule that focuses more time on the areas where you are weaker or less familiar. You want to spend more time on those areas where you do not perform as well to ensure that you are equally strong across all topics. Without doing this, your knowledge will be unbalanced and there will be topics for which you are not fully prepared. Once, or if, you discover this, it attacks your confidence and introduces unnecessary stress.
If you are unable objectively assess your strength and weaknesses on your own, or are unsure how to do it, use a practice exam that provides you with analytics or information on your performance across each topic so you can effectively prepare and plan early.
2. Organize your materials and yourself: The five Ps
I learned an adage a long time ago: perfect planning prevents poor performance. This could not be any truer than for your licensing exams. Making the effort to organize yourself and your materials efficiently and effectively will significantly reduce stress and create confidence in your ability to locate information when you get stumped on a question. I say "when" because it is inevitable that you will. Organized materials are your response to questions that cause you trouble in the middle of the licensing exam.
When organizing your materials, use strategic flagging and be deliberate about your highlighting. Use sticky notes to identify specific topics, charts, or items so you can quickly get to them. This eliminates wasted time flipping through pages and searching for page numbers or headings. However, do not get out of control with this. Not everything needs to be flagged. Too many tabs will make it hard to find what you need quickly. When highlighting, use different colours for specific things. For example, use yellow for rules of law, green for legislation, and blue for legal tests. Using this strategy, you can quickly find what you need on a page. With proper flagging and highlighting, you can be confident you will locate information quickly during the exam and eliminates wasted time. This reduces stress and anxiety because you have a solid response when you don’t know an answer.
Organizing yourself from the start of your prep through to the end of your licensing examinations will also lower your stress and anxiety. Do this by using, and sticking to, a study schedule. In your study schedule, set out what topics you will study each day, how much material you will cover, and how many days you will spend on it. If you are using an exam preparation course, determine what videos you will watch and when you will write practice exams, and schedule them. This regimen will ensure you get through the study materials efficiently and effectively. It eliminates guessing about what you covered and provides you with structure. This, in turn, reassures you that you are ready, builds confidence, and reduces stress and anxiety.
3. Be honest about what you can do and when you need help
This is the most difficult thing to do. To be successful and reduce stress to a manageable level, you need to be honest with yourself about your ability to handle the volume of study materials, your ability to process and understand the study materials, and your progress. If you cannot keep up, there is nothing wrong with getting help. Recognizing the need for help demonstrates that you are ready to take on a new and challenging career. Help and advice can be obtained from many reliable sources including your friends and classmates, tutors, and resource offices at your school. Being self-aware can make an enormous impact on your success by lowering stress and anxiety. Getting help puts you back in control.
Managing stress and anxiety can play a pivotal role in your success on the licensing exams. Employ these simple strategies to focus yourself, take control, and increase your confidence. This will significantly impact your likelihood of success on one of the most important examinations you will ever write.