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TOEFL Tip #117: Converting Nervousness Into Excitement

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on September 2, 2011

You feel restless, you are full of anticipation, you are obsessing about the future. You might even feel your heart beating faster. Are you nervous (generally seen as a negative feeling) or might you possibly be excited!

The answer is … either one. How we feel is highly influenced by the circumstances in which we experience something. If you’re feeling the bodily sensations described above, and your birthday party is later in the afternoon, you call it “excitement.” If, however, you feel this way right before a test, you call it “nerves.” You’re actually feeling the same set of physical responses, but the CONTEXT leads to a different interpretation of what those sensations MEAN.

One of Strictly English’s tutors shared the following story about how context changes the meaning of how she feels.

“When I first started teaching, I got nervous at the start of every semester. I asked myself questions like, ‘Would the students work well together?’ and ‘Would they like me?’ By the time class started, I had butterflies in my stomach. One semester, I decided to think about my students as friends who didn’t quite know me yet. Introducing myself to them and getting them interested in the class became a game, a challenge for my creativity, rather than something to be afraid of. Since then, I still have the butterflies, but I think of them the same why I think of the feelings I get before going on a date with a man I’m really excited to get to know. Once I traded my nervousness for excitement, I became a much more effective teacher.”

So let’s PURPOSEFULLY turn the tables on TOEFL test day. As you begin to feel yourself getting nervous, say to yourself, “THIS IS EXCITING! I’m going to have FUN!” Turn TOEFL into a game and not a test. We don’t start to cry and shake when we have a bad round of Angry Birds. Of course not! We just try again. And we have FUN trying again! So, for example, if your Speaking Task 1 seems like it wasn’t very good, just laugh at your own mistakes, and then start Task 2 with the same excitement that you would have if you were trying another round of Angry Birds.

Such a simple shift in perception can make the difference between a 24 and a 26 on the Speaking!

Categories: Test day

3 comments so far. Leave a comment.

  1. StrictlyEnglish | Blog » Dec 17th Tests Scores Lower than Expected

    wrote on December 29, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    [...] Read out article about how to recognize anxiety as excitement. If you can shift your perception of your emotions, you’ll do much [...]

  2. StrictlyEnglish | Blog » TOEFL Tip #139: The Year In Review

    wrote on January 20, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    [...] the difference between practice speed and performance speed, recognizing signs of nervousness and converting nervousness into excitement. We also did a post about Strictly English’s Critical Thinking and Analytical Writing [...]

  3. StrictlyEnglish | Blog » TOEFL Tip #119: Know Your Signs Of Nervousness

    wrote on February 3, 2012 at 9:34 am

    [...] Two weeks ago, we talked about converting nervousness you might feel at the TOEFL exam into excitement. If you think of the test as a series of fun challenges, you are more likely to perform well. [...]

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