Counseling and Neurofeedback
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Board-Certifed in Neurofeedback

Taking Tests: 3 Myths That Make Exams Harder

Is taking tests stressing you out?

If you think that taking tests is stressful, It might be because of these myths.

These myths are pervasive. I’ve heard them, or variations of them, from the majority of my academic coaching clients. These myths change how you study.

Myth 1: Some people are naturally good at taking tests

False.  Test taking is a skill, like playing tennis or doing crossword puzzles.  There are strategies and shortcuts that can be learned, as in any other skill.  The strategies include two general types: strategies for feeling prepared, and strategies for regulating your level of arousal (anxiety).  If either of these is missing, you probably feel anxious, don’t do as well as you could on tests, or both.  With the right strategies, it’s possible to do your best work and stay relaxed.

Myth 2: Cramming is an effective way to study

False.  I know, I know, you have a friend who crammed for her last 3 tests and got As.  Research suggests, however, that she got the As in spite of cramming, not because of it.  Imagine cleaning your room by stuffing everything you own into a closet, then forcing the door shut.  It’s packed away, but it’s not organized in a way you can easily use it.  In the same way, cramming stuffs information into your short-term memory, but doesn’t organize and consolidate it so it can be moved into your long-term memory.  As a result, it’s quickly and easily forgotten.  Students who learn effective test taking skills can store and retrieve information more easily on tests.

Myth 3: Only students need skill in taking tests.  Once you’re out of school, you don’t have to worry about it.

False.  Many adults return to school for professional reasons or to change careers.  Many fields require tests for continuing education, promotion, or advancement.  Whether you want to become a high school teacher, pass the bar exam, or operate a shortwave radio, test taking skills can help you lifelong and are well worth developing.


Pat LaDouceur, Ph.D., helps students who are stressed out about school learn the skills, strategies, and mindset they need for academic success in high school, college, and beyond.  Her “Skills for Academic SuccessTM” program uses the principles of micro-change to help students study smarter, get better grades, and still have time for friends and fun. As a psychotherapist, Board Certified Neurofeedback practitioner, and former credentialed secondary school teacher, Pat knows a lot about learning and the brain. She has taught middle school math, high school chemistry, college social sciences, and has 30 years of her own schooling under her belt. She is the mother of college-age twins, and provides Academic Life Coaching in Berkeley, CA.