Project Management

Conquering PM Testing Anxiety

Mike Griffiths is an experienced project manager, author and consultant who works for PMI as a subject matter expert. Before joining PMI, Mike consulted and managed innovation and technology projects throughout Europe, North and South America for 30+ years. He was co-lead for the PMBOK Guideā€”Seventh Edition, lead for the Agile Practice Guide, and contributor to the PMI-ACP and PMP exam content outlines. Outside of PMI, Mike maintains the websites www.LeadingAnswers.com about leading teams and www.PMillustrated.com, which teaches project management for visual learners.

Research into test anxiety, its impact on test performance and strategies for intervention that were published in Science magazine in 2011offer some valuable tools for boosting performance. It turns out there is a 10-minute exercise that has been found to significantly boost performance. Here is an excerpt from the research paper:

 “Two laboratory and two randomized field experiments tested a writing intervention exercise designed to improve students’ scores on high stakes exams…The intervention, a brief expressive writing assignment that occurred immediately before taking an important test, significantly improved student exam scores, especially for students habitually anxious about test taking. Simply writing about one’s worries before a high-stakes exam can boost test scores.”

So, especially if you get nervous about important exams, this is a great tool for improving performance. Returning to the paper: “Studies have shown that when students feel an anxious desire to perform at a high level, they worry about the situation and its consequences. These worries compete for Working Memory (WM) available for performance. WM is a short-term memory system involved in the control and regulation of a limited amount of information immediately relevant to the task at hand. If the ability of WM to maintain task focus is disrupted …


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