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If feeling nervous and anxious about your upcoming assessment test, you're not alone.

In fact, feelings of stress and anxiety are a common experience to applicants before and during their assessment test. 

We asked our occupational psychologist, Gil Aloni, to give us a few simple methods to help you cope with the stress and anxiety associated with your upcoming test. So we sat down with him for a long and interesting chat and we boiled it down to 9 actionable tips. 

Gil Aloni occupational psychologist and training instructor at JobTestPrep

Gil, one of our occupational psychologists

 

Strategy 1: Change your thinking pattern  

The underlying principle is that your experience of stress and anxiety is based on your pattern of negative thinking.

Therefore, simply changing your way of thinking will lead to a more relaxed and improved physical experience before and during your aptitude test.  

Easier said than done... right? 

Well, we have some "techniques" to helped many people get a quiet mind.

 

I) Understand that it's perfectly natural to feel stressed - most people feel this way

Many test takers feel overcome by these feelings of stress and anxiety surrounding the assessment test, and do not realise that this experience is perfectly normal and natural. 

You may harbor beliefs that you are not strong enough to adapt to this unfamiliar situation, that you cannot cope properly with this test, or even that something inside you is defective – all negative feelings that can undermine your self-esteem.

There is a widespread belief that all other candidates are confident and feeling in control, that's definitely untrue. You are not the only one who is feeling stressed and anxious.

This belief can actually intensify your anxiety and stress.

Sometimes just understanding that these feelings are absolutely legitimate is enough to significantly reduce the phenomenon and its negative connotations. 


II) Anxiety can be your new best friend 

The next step is to reduce the extent of the impact of anxiety on your functioning. 

To do this, you need to humanise your anxiety and engage in a heart-to-heart internal conversation, along the following lines:  

It's good that you're here, Anxiety, I'm actually glad you're here. Your presence proves to me how important this test's outcome is to me. Youpresence proves how much I want to succeed.’ 

In fact, the moment you give anxiety a place to reside within your inner space, it stops chasing after you;  the moment you give it legitimacy - it ceases to demand this from you

Once you relate to your anxiety with respect – your anxiety relaxes and allows you to relax. 


III) Regaining control  

The feelings of stress and anxiety surrounding the assessment test situation can often stem from your perception of being powerless. 

You may feel a lack of control over the entire testing situation, with no control over the course of the test day, no choice over which tests you are asked to take, and no control over which of your behaviours will be assessed. 

You feel like a leaf in the wind, being blown about by powers beyond your control.  

How can you regain a sense of control?

It’s simple. The next step is to understand that your level of control over this whole process is actually higher than what you have allowed yourself to think.

In fact,you are choosing to do the assessment test (and it remains within your control to decide not to do it).

You are choosing to make the effort to fulfill your career ambitions, and you are choosing to turn up on the big day to take this test.


IV) Choose a clear goal 

It is human nature to aim high, to invest energy and resources into achieving goals, and to desire the best possible results. However, sometimes we get confused about what our goals should actually be.

When it comes to the assessment tests, we often relate to the day itself as the goal, rather than a means to achieve the goal. 

On its own, your test has no inherent meaning. The assessment day only acquires a meaning when it is considered in the correct context – as a means of predicting your estimated success for the specific job role. 

Therefore, to reduce our levels of anxiety, we need to establish clearer and more realistic goals for ourselves.  


V) See time as a positive element 

When we consider the element of Time as our enemy, we fail to function optimally. We get stressed, we do nothing, and then we fail to achieve our goals. 

Working together with Time – relating to it but simultaneously not fearing it – enables us to work towards our goals efficiently and achieve all that we are working towards.  

Try not to get stressed by the issue of time during your assessment centre. On the contrary, try to feel how every second brings your skills and abilities to the fore.

Remember that the time-pressure will help you become sharper and more alert, and will prevent you from getting distracted and losing focus. 


Strategy 2: Biofeedback 

Below is an outline of various techniques that will allow you to gain more control over your body and your immediate physical experience. 

These techniques are designed to regulate your heart rate, reduce hyperventilation or muscle tension, and even change the nature of your brain waves, all for the purpose of achieving relaxation and inner peace. 

 

I) Practise conscious breathing 

Our breathing is the most basic tool for dealing with stress and anxiety. 

You can practise this breathing exercise anywhere and at any time; while talking to other people or even during the assessment test day itself.

This is what you do:

Step 1. Inhaling fresh oxygen-saturated air into your lungs is an essential part of relaxation. Breathe through the nose for about 3 seconds. 

Step 2. Next, stop breathing for about 3 seconds to allow fresh oxygen to reach the corners of your lungs. 

Step 3. Finally, let the air out of your lungs with a long slow breath, for about 6 seconds.  


II) Meditate

The ancient practise of meditation is a technique for training the mind to focus and attain a specific state of internal consciousness. 

There are many proclaimed benefits to meditation, one such benefit being the ability to block out any intruding, distracting or stressful thoughts.  

How to meditate: Before you begin to meditate, sit on a comfortable armchair or lie down on a comfortable bed. 

  • Close your eyes and begin to focus your mind.
  • Clean your mind from any unwanted or disturbing thoughts.
  • Try to focus on one single stimulus and ignore all other external stimuli (such as noise, smells, temperature) and internal stimuli (such as unwanted thoughts).

For meditation to be effective, it should be practised twice a day for around twenty minutes at a time.  


III) Regain control over your body to generate a sense of calm

We already know that stress and anxiety are partly due to our sense of lacking control in stressful situations. 

The following exercise is designed to help you regain a sense of control over your body and to feel a sense of stability.  

This is what you do:

  • To begin, sit on a firm chair (a padded armchair or sofa will not be suitable for this exercise).
  • close your eyes and very slowly try to feel all the points where your body is in contact with the chair and the floor
  • Repeat this exercise from head to toe several more times to re-experience the sense of security and physical support that it will give you.  
  • You can also combine this exercise with the soothing breathing exercise to enhance the benefits of both techniques 

Strategy 2: Guided imagery 

Guided imagery is another strategy that can be used to transform your anxiety into calm relaxation.

Using positive mental imagery, this technique enables test-takers to prepare for what might happen the exam and the days that follow. 

The principle idea behind these techniques is that our thoughts create reality

Classic guided imagery is a combination of guided imagery and meditation which can be extremely useful in helping you greatly reduce your anxiety and regain your senses.

 In the days leading up to the assessment centre, try to spend a few minutes each day engaging in general relaxation and self-guided imagery. Ideally you should practise more than once a day.  

This is what you do:

  1. Lie-down comfortably on your bed or a sofa and close your eyes. 
  2. Cleanse your mind from any unwanted thoughts, as you learned to do with the meditation method, and give yourself time to free your mind so that you can focus as much as possible.
  3. Now let’s begin to imagine positive scenarios that you want to be actualised in real life.  
  4. Visualise the entire test process, starting from the moment you will wake up on the morning of the test. 
  5. Try to visualise the details of how you will feel, what your surroundings will look like, what you will be wearing and what you will
  6. Tell yourself in your mind to keep calm and relaxed.
  7. Imagine your test day like a scene in a movie: imagine yourself waking up that morning, feeling calm and relaxed, and walking into the test centre to begin your test.
  8. Visualise what you will think and how you will conduct yourself. 
  9. All the while you're picturing yourself sitting down to begin the exam reassure yourself that you are prepared and confident in your ability to succeed.
  10. Imagine the specific positive affirmations that you will tell yourself, such as, ‘I am prepared’, ‘I can do this’, ‘I will know some of the answers’.  
  11. Try to imagine each step of the assessment, such as how to you will pay attention to instructions, read through each question, answer each question quickly and carefully.
  12. Finally imagine yourself finishing the test and feeling confident that you did your best to succeed.  

One of the advantages of this technique is that you can use it during the assessment itself.

Visualising yourself going through the motions of the test can help make it seem more familiar and less threatening on the day.

We hope that you use these tips to achieve relaxation, calm and composure on you test and in your life in general. We trust that after even only a day of practice you'll already be on your path to success.  

Good luck!  

Gil Aloni is an occupational psychologist and training instructor at JobTestPrep. 

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