The last straw was when I was denied from my top school for college because of my SAT scores. My 1500 was not enough for them, and that’s all that mattered. What didn’t matter was that I was an amazing student, had great recommendation letters, was in the National Honors Society, involved in sports and extra-curricular activities, or the endless hours of volunteer work that I had to back up my school resume. All that mattered was my average SAT score that I fought hard to get. All that mattered was that I could not take a test.
If you have never heard of test anxiety, you are probably one of the lucky ones; the people that can study for one or two nights if they want to ace that test. Some people, however, are not that lucky—and I am one of those people. Test anxiety is a branch that grows off of the various anxiety disorders that many students, like myself, struggle with every day. We are the people that need to work extra hard for our grades in order to maintain them and, no matter how well we may know the material, end up with below satisfactory test grades.
In fourth grade, I moved across the country and into a new school. They informed me that at the end of the year I would need to take what was called an EOG, or “End of Grade” test. In those nights prior I would vomit and cry about how nervous to take those tests and the fact that whatever I got on those tests could change the course of my school career forever. This carried on for five long, agonizing years until I was in high school and had moved on from dreading those EOGs to stressing over SATs.
I have never been a “good tester,” and it seemed like every one of my friends was. “What did you get on the test?” was the question that I would dread in the days after we received scores. My friends would be relieved to know they got high scores, while I would spend my nights doing extra credit and making sure my homework was exactly right so I could get every other point possible in order to get an A or B.
I could spend weeks studying for a test and still manage to only make something in the high 70s if I was lucky. I remember hiding so many test scores from my parents and lying that everything was going to be fine. They knew I had test anxiety but I still felt so guilty about the new grade that seemed to stand out more than anything on my report cards. I never really knew I was going to be fine, but if I told myself that it would keep me from a complete meltdown and a failing grade.
Even now I still think it’s because I am not smart enough or fit to be a student. I sometimes feel that not being a student is my best option, because if I can’t test, I can’t get through life. But then I remember all of the aspirations I had as a kid and how I don’t want to let that kid down. Sometimes it’s a struggle to have to overcompensate so I can get through school and get into the college, or grad school, or job that I want. When I struggle with my test anxiety, I have to remember that I am more than what my grade entails. Just because I got a 1500 on my SAT does not mean I am not fit to be a doctor, lawyer, or dentist. All it means is that my brain is different, and that’s okay.
Next time that you feel overwhelmed with your exams, SATs, midterms, or general in-class tests, remember what you are aiming for. Hold on to the dreams you have and keep in mind that you too are more than your grade. Keep being the student that you are, because if whatever your grade is prevents you from doing something that you wanted, it wasn’t worth your time anyway. You don’t need to be seen as a test grade, and you shouldn’t be. You are a great student, and more importantly, you are a great person. Keep up the good work and never lower your expectations of yourself—you can do this.