Anyone taking a fire department promotional exam knows it’s a big deal. There’s a lot riding on your success, which means the pressure is on to not just test well, but to score in the top ten, five, or even two spots. Unfortunately for many, the promotional exam experience itself is often compounded by test anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, affected over 40 million adults — more than 18% of the population. This isn’t the usual pre-test jitters and edginess. True testing anxiety can actually derail weeks or even months of diligent preparation. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, here are two tips to help manage test anxiety for fire service promotional exams.
We’ve all heard stories of people in our departments who have taken — and failed — written promotional tests two, three, even four and five times. But why? Was it a lack of preparation, not enough sleep, fear of failure, or true test anxiety? The Princeton Review describes test anxiety as “racing thoughts, inability to concentrate, or feelings of dread” that may be accompanied by physical symptoms such as “a fast heartbeat, headache, or nausea.” The good news is that there could be a specific reason triggering your text anxiety. And once you understand the root of the problem, you can take steps to manage it.
Lack of preparation is a common culprit of test anxiety. And it’s completely avoidable. Instead of trying to wing it — and panicking when you sit down to test and realize you’re in way over your head — put in the work on the front end. Knowing that you’ve done all you can to properly prepare for your exam will go a great distance in reassuring yourself that you can do this. Start with practice tests that you can take on the go. Organize a study group. Create a schedule for yourself that gives you enough time to stud properly. Make a plan and stick to it so that you’re ready and confident come test day.
Fear of failure is another trigger for test anxiety. Experts outline these methods for using fear of failure to your advantage:
Any firefighter has the ability to promote — it simply boils down to how willing you are to properly prepare. Take ownership and accountability for the reasons behind your test anxiety, and don’t give up on your goals.