Since I was working at a hypnosis clinic my young wife insisted I do something to help with test anxiety. I did two brief in person sessions and made a cassette tape with a 15 minute self-hypnosis/systematic desensitization session. She could listen to that a few times a week before the state board exam in about a month. I had heard about the loud police whistles from other nursing students who had already taken the exam a few months earlier.
I used the sights and sounds she would experience to describe how she would respond in the testing setting. She relaxed and listened to the tape several times a week and soaked in the positive suggestions that were linked to the intimidating sights and sounds I knew she would experience. She reported later being nervous but once she heard the first police whistle and the yelling test proctor calling for her group to follow her a change came over her. She relaxed and the confusion, noise and distractions fell away. She was still aware but her focus shifted to the test booklet in front of her. She breezed through the exam and passed the first time. Once she handed in the finished exam her awareness shifted back to her regular perceptions.
The use of systematic desensitization or self-hypnosis did not create any increased knowledge for her. She passed because she studied hard for the board exams. It did not give her super memory or make her brain work better like a supercomputer. It is not a spiritual exercise or connected to any religion. It is just a simple way to relax step by step and visualize some positive things. You can also rehearse/choose in advance how you will respond to certain stimuli (such as police whistles).
You can instruct your body to close off or turn down the impact of stress, fear and distraction. So you take the test in a relaxed and alert state and waste no mental time on fear, negative self-talk or worry. You just read and answer questions, solve equations and let your intuition nudge you. You pick up on small items that may help you to make a better choice. No mysticism here just mental skill. The more you study the more successful you will be. I compare it to the hard time I had hitting a curve ball. After practicing a lot I got better at not swinging at the throws that were not able to be hit. With practice I could hit more of the ones that were possible to hit. This technique helps some of us ignore the things that take our attention off the ball being pitched at us. We find it easier to pay attention to the ball and not the crowd, nasty calls from the other team or the thoughts of failure.
I made up a relaxation/self-hypnosis tape when I had to take the stock brokers exam. No police whistles here just a closed self-contained computer room with a high window with a row of paid observers. A camera directly above your computer, two other cameras from different angles watching all ten computers in the testing area. I had one of the highest scores seen by the examiners and by our company. However, I did not use a relaxation tape when I later took the laws exam which was easier and much smaller even though I studied hard for it. My score just made the cut off. I was not mentally prepared and became confused, fearful and agitated during that exam. I then used a lot of prayer during the last third of that exam and that was probably why I barely made it to a passing grade. Same testing room. Same preparation time. So for me the desensitization techniques seems to work well. It may not for others.
So yes it is a useful technique. Some folks buy a product/CD from a company that sells CDs that focus on memory, concentration or test taking. I cannot give you any suggestions on what is available since I make up my own tape based on the test coming up. I record a ten or fifteen minute tape that relaxes me quickly and focuses on what skills I need to pass. THE TAPE DOES NOT TAKE THE PLACE OF THE HARD WORK OF STUDYING! It loads your mind with positive suggestions, positive self-talk and combats negative statements that you may say to yourself. If you go around saying things about how hard the classes are and how unfair you are being treated you are undermining yourself.
Your creator made you smart or you would not be where you are at. Someone saw promise in you or you would not have even been able to enter the doctoral program. You have a chance to get a job later that will allow you to do amazing things. You have been blessed to touch this world in a very substantial way. So negative self-talk and doubt are not very good for you. Wake up and see where you are at! Yes it may be hard now but that is part of the doctoral journey. We all went through it, every one of us. My wife has pushed me for years to offer some sort of basic desensitization/self-hypnosis CD or down load. I may get around to that at some point. Right now I am too busy on other projects.
Think about our earlier posts. Reread the posts that speak to your need a few times until the post’s meaning gets right down inside of you. Much of what is in this website came from your peers. It came from loving folks who graduated and from those who did not. They all want you to succeed. I want each of you to succeed and have a fantastic life. So much of what this world needs you have. Each of you can help our world, all of our world.
So yes the spooky stuff and strange sounding techniques sometimes work and will work for some of you. As an undergraduate they hooked me up to an expensive set of biofeedback units in class and found I was very susceptible to this type of approach. But it had little effect on others. I write this as one possible method to think about.
Mind your goals,
Dr. Randy Parker
National Doctoral Students Association