I grabbed a pen from my backpack and reluctantly sat down. The professor was saying something, but I had no idea what. All I could hear was the thumping of my heart, which seemed to be getting louder and louder. I wondered if the girl sitting next to me could hear it. As the professor began to pass out the exams, my throat tightened. I felt like I couldn't breathe. I just knew I was about to become the first student in history to die from test stress!
As I stared at the first essay question, I became very aware of the ticking of the clockonly 50 minutes to complete the exam. Looking around the class, I saw everyone else already writing fast and furiously. But as I stared at the questions in front of me, all I could think about was how I barely pulled a "D" on the last test in this class. Thinking about that horrible grade only reminded me that my GPA would fall even farther if I didn't get at least a "B+" on this test.
For as long as I can remember I've hated taking tests. They make me so nervous, I'm never able to perform at 100 percent capacity. Until my freshman year of college, I'd never really tried to understand why. But my struggles in history class forced me to get to the bottom of the issue.
I really had been working hard in my history class. I did all my assignments and studied for the tests. It just didn't make sense to me that I was close to failing. So I went to the professor for help. I told him I didn't know what more I could do because it didn't seem to matter how hard I studied, I still bombed the tests. By the end of my explanation, I was on the verge of tears.
"Alyssa, it's only a test," he said quietly. I must have looked completely dumbfounded, but he continued. "In the scope of life, this is a small thing."
As I walked out of his office that day, I slowly began to understand that all my worry was causing the problem. I also began to realize that I had been equating my grades with my level of self-worth. If I performed poorly on the test, I thought that meant I was stupid and that God wouldn't be very happy with me.
It's taken me awhile, but I'm learning that God doesn't love me more or less because of how well I do (or don't do) academically. As 1 Samuel 16:7 says, "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." God knows my desire is to do my best, even if my grades don't always seem to reflect that.
I can't say that taking tests will ever be one of life's highlights for me, but they don't make me nearly as nervous anymore. All I can do is try my best and by God's grace remind myself, "It's only a test!"