I was inspired to write this post by Lynn who asks "... What are your studying strategies? as I, myself, suffer from test anxiety." I started to type a response detailing my journey through conquering test taking anxiety and realized this may have the potential to help others on the road to healing. So bear with me...this one is a bit emotional
Picture me in undergrad at Western Michigan University (the coldest place on earth). I was referred to see a Speech-Language Pathologist for an evaluation of Voice by a faculty member in the School of Music and it was LOVE AT FIRST SCOPE! Never had I pictured myself doing anything else but singing Opera around the world until that moment. I left that appointment worried about my budding bel canto future but completely enamored with the field of Speech-Language Pathology. Little did I know that falling in love with the field is the easiest part!
I still remember sitting down for my first exam as a pre SLP major, it was Phonetics. I thought I was prepared. Felt a little jittery not singing on a stage as a means of demonstrating competency but no biggie. As the professor handed out the exams and the room fell silent, I began to thumb through the stack of pages. My heart began to race, I thought "oh crap this is long....and entirely short answer" , my palms became sweaty as I read through the directions and my mind went completely blank. I wanted to cry. To curl up in a ball in the corner and disappear. I had studied so hard for this, my first foray in to a new career path and the professor was going to think I was an idiot or worse a slacker because I could not stop shaking long enough to hold the pencil straight. I left that test knowing I'd bombed (and I was right) and there were many more to follow in other courses before I became so discouraged I considered quitting the major or even dropping out. But I still wasn't ready to let this dream die so I decided to fight...
Find a Test Anxiety Support Group
You are not alone, there are other people who suffer from this everyday. Through the counseling department at my school I was able to get connected with a wonderful support group full of test takers just like me that was facilitated by a counselor. We talked about our struggles, practiced identifying triggers for panic attacks and helped each other develop compensatory strategies and repair our damaged GPA's.
Identify your Triggers
This was big for me. I didn't realize how my life as a musician had influenced the way I took tests. For me an exam was almost always an audition or a performance. I've sung in front of over 30,000 people before without flinching but that cold classroom with the florescent lights sent me into a tailspin EVERY TIME. So I had to practice. I went into classrooms, set a timer and did practice tests. Eventually, I became de-sensitized to it. I also refrained from engaging with my classmates before a test as well all that pre test anxiety talk only made things worse for me. Before an exam, I would find a quiet, hidden place put on some classical music and simply practice breathing. I used the technique of Visual Imagery during this time. I visualized myself doing every single detail of the next hour. Standing up. Walking toward the door. Finding a seat. Making small talk with a classmate. Being handed the test. taking out my pencil. breathing deeply. Looking over page 1. Not knowing some of the answers, forgiving myself. Looking over page 2. etc. I used this technique beginning the night before any test up into the moment I walk in. It really helped me to release that fear of anticipation and anxiety about the unknown.
When you know you have test taking anxiety you simply cannot expect to study like everyone else and get the same results. Your study schedule has to involve mind, body and spirit preparation. This means you have to start early! I had to change the way I prepped for tests period. Gone were the days I memorized an aria the weekend before an audition/jury and still did well. At the beginning of the semester I had to designate check point dates for myself that I would have the material mastered and those dates HAD to be at least a week before the test in order to give me time to rest my brain, make corrections and still feel relaxed. Does that sound crazy? Probably. But it was my new normal and necessary for me. Find your new normal when it comes to test preparation and you will reduce your anxiety. Do you need to exercise before a test to feel calm? What about a good meal? Maybe you can't drink the weekend before? Whatever it is, do some research on yourself and commit to a regimen that works for you.
Be Transparent with Your Professors
I credit my professors in the SLP dept for getting me through undergrad. After I failed my first couple of exams I went to each and everyone of them and explained what was going on. I told them how much I love speech language pathology, showed them my notes from test anxiety support group and let them know I was committed to being successful in their class. I asked for supplemental assignments to remediate my grade and committed myself to PERFECT attendance. I sat up front and engaged them in discussion throughout class regularly so that they knew I was mentally present and had reviewed the material. In turn, they supported me 100%. I even had one professor who would create mock exams for me to take weeks before the test to "take the edge off", he would administer them to me and sit and review them with me so that I could further identify if it was an anxiety issue, lack of preparation issue or both. People cannot help you unless you let them in. It was difficult to humble myself and be so vulnerable because I am a staunch perfectionist. But developing that level of rapport with my professors as resulted in lifelong friendship and a MA, CCC-SLP after my name.
Do you have any tips or strategies for battling test taking anxiety! Leave them in the comments below!
If you're like me and had to take a comprehensive exam AND the praxis in grad school. I'm sure the mere thought of accomplishing such a feat causes great anxiety. As a person who suffered from test anxiety, trust me when I say you are not alone! I am happy to say that I passed both my comprehensive exams and the praxis exam and YOU CAN TOO! Here's my advice for preparing yourself to excel on the 2 most important tests you'll ever take!
Scheduling the Praxis
My graduate program selected a date for the comprehensive exams (the end of the spring semester) and I scheduled my praxis for the weekend after. While most people would consider this risky or overwhelming, I did this for several reasons (1) I wanted to be done with EVERYTHING academic related after finals so that I could truly celebrate my graduation with friends and family. (2) I wanted to hit the ground running with my licensure for prospective employment opportunities. (3) Considering the amount of preparation and mental/emotional effort I expend to prepare for these types of exams, I wasn't sure if I could put myself through that type of stress twice. It paid off for me as the info from the comps was still fresh in my head when I sat for the praxis that following weekend and had my licensure just in time for my first week of work!
When to Start Studying
Considering my hectic schedule and the importance of these exams, I knew that I could not afford to "cram" at the last minute. With the exams in April, I committed myself to study every Sunday a for 3 hours beginning in January. This way I could take my time and really master the concepts I needed to know while balancing a school and work schedule. It took a lot of discipline but really paid off in the end!
I found that studying in a small group was helpful to me when prepping for these exams. What made my group study experience so effective was:
(1) We kept it small and meaningful. This is not the time to study with someone just because they are your friend! Choose your study buddies wisely. If your current study circle does not contribute/enhance your academic performance don't fret! Just meet them for cocktails after your study session with those who do!
(2) We set a weekly schedule for study meetings (that lasted about 3 hours) during which one specific topic was covered (i.e. language development). These topics corresponded to chapters in the Hedge Praxis Comprehensive Exam book. We agreed the expectation was that everyone come to the session with materials and notes concerning the schedule topic, having reviewed it at least once already.
(3) We took turns leading the study sessions. This was nice because everyone got a chance to be an "expert" and share materials on her favorite topic. We created a folder on google drive and shared our materials this way. We also created practice questions, essay prompts and diagrams for each other to complete on our own and bring to the group session ready to review.
As the Binder Queen I did not disappoint and organized all of my materials by subject into a large 3 ring beauty complete with my other favs: dividers and sheet protectors. It included visuals, handouts and outlines from the group study sessions. I also took 1 of the 4 practice tests provided on the USB drive that accompanies the Hedge test prep book at the start of each month.
This allowed me to: (1) Practice taking the test in the actual format (e.g. time limit and question type (2) Zero in on my exact areas of weakness so I was not wasting time overloading my brain with stuff I already had down packed (3) Monitor whether I was actually making improvement or if I needed to tweak my approach. I highly recommend taking practice tests while studying for the praxis even if only to train your brain to focus and build your mental endurance!
I'm not going to lie to you. I was an emotional ball of nerves during my last semester of grad school. Between practicum, class, completing my research, working part-time and prepping for these exams, there were times I thought I was going to go off the deep end. Several things helped me get into a better frame of mind for both test days.
(1) Cut the negative talk and worry-wart conversations. I literally made a pledge to myself to only mention the praxis/comps if I was referring to how I plan to pass them. I also chose to surround myself with positive, optimistic folk who felt the same. Nervous energy is contagious!
(2) I found a relaxing activity (i.e. walking on the beach) to do after every study session to give myself a mental break.
(3) I went into what I like to call "The Bat Cave". I informed family and friends that my presence may be scarce and cut out my late night partying, unhealthy eating and weekend adventures in order to focus on the task in front of me. Act like you're training for the mental olympics and you're going for the GOLD.
In the end, I felt extremely prepared for both exams and was elated to pass both tests and graduate a month later as a
REAL LIVE SPEECH LANGUAGE PATHOLOGIST! IT WAS WORTH IT!
Check out this awesome brochure created by 3 SLP graduate students from Hampton University as a part of a prevention initiative for adults who have received treatment for swallowing. I love how it details compensatory strategies and facts that you can review with family/caregiver before a patient is discharged in order to increase the likelihood of success with dietary modifications and environmental strategies at home!
Download a copy of this brochure for your patients here!
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Check out this in-service I put together to present to the Rehab unit at the Skilled Nursing Facility where I am completing my adult placement!
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Was this useful to you?! Sharing is caring! Download a copy here! Please attribute credit appropriately :-)
This semester I am completing my adult practicum hours at a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) and I love it (more on that later)! If you're like me and had a background working in education/children, I'm sure you can understand how incredibly nervous and intimidated I was about working in a medical setting for the first time. However, I've found that by assembling a "survival kit" of sorts with strategies and materials that I can pull from, my anxiety has been put to ease and I am able to feel more confident and have FUN with my patients! Most importantly, I'm steadily adding to my kit so that when I enter the workforce, I can hit the ground running with a familiar system already in place. Check out the ideas below to get inspiration for building your own!
Mediscope for Eyes, Ears, Nose & Throat
This is something that I use everyday during beside swallowing evaluations. The ototscope attachment allows for me to check of edema of nasal passages as well integrity of the the tympanic membrane when evaluating possible sources of vocal pathology. Then, it can also be removed and used as a pen light for your basic oral motor evaluation and comes with a laryngeal mirror attachment AND tongue depressors! It's currently on sale for $8.49 at Walgreens which is what I'd call a STEAL!!! http://www.walgreens.com/store/c/walgreens-mediscope-kit/ID=prod6001800-product?ext=gooMedicines_ampersand_Treatments_PLA_Aids_To_Daily_Living_prod6001800_pla&adtype=%7Badtype%7D&kpid=prod6001800&sst=746b6a86-0beb-98e9-0a06-000074ac2c5e#BVRRWidgetID
Let's be honest, wearing a stethoscope around your neck as you walk through a facility INSTANTLY boosts your cool factor by 20 points. Even better it is incredibly helpful when evaluating and treating patients! During evaluations and intervention, I use it to assess cervical auscultation in patients that I suspect to have dysphagia (more about that here)
An average one will set you back about $20 on Amazon, and they come in an array of colors.
This is another great tool for when you may not have access to a FEES or MBS. It allows you to monitor the arterial oxygen saturation of a patient during meals to make an inference about swallow function. Read a great article explaining that HERE.
These aren't that expensive at about $20 and up for a decent one on Amazon and they also come in different colors for the fashion conscious clinician (ME!)
Binders & Sheet Protectors
Ok now that it's established that we're all super nerds here. Let me just delve into how much I LOVE sheet protectors! When treating patients, I use them to protect copies of the swallow precautions/oral motor exercise programs so that they are on the beside table and readily accessible for the patient AND the staff to read. I also use them in my RESOURCE binder to preserve copies of patient education handouts and writing samples for my professional portfolio.
I've organized my Resource Binder into 5 sections:
1. Facility Practices, Policies & Procedures: So that I don't embarrass myself or break the rules ;-)
2. Relevant Research concerning Disorders (including definitions of the new medical terminology and diagnoses I learn everyday)
3. Patient Education Handouts (things that are worded appropriately to help patients/family/caregivers understand what I'm doing)
4. Templates/Examples of Paperwork:
When my clinical instructor approves a goal I've written I add it to my "goal bank" under the appropriate category, I do this for every portion of a write-up so that I will always have a reference of what a GOOD write-up looks like.
I also include copies of data sheets, screening forms that I've used and informal assessments that I like. For example this one for motor speech disorders provided by ASHA is wonderful! (Motor Speech Eval Template)
5. Writing Samples: After BLACKING out all identifying information in accordance with confidentiality regulations, I print and file samples of really good reports that I've written to present to potential employers during an interview.
Hopefully this has inspired you to create your own survival kit! Please feel free to share it with us in the comment section below!
It's finals week! Check out this Aphasia Study Guide for your Exam Prep! Good Luck Everyone!
So if you have a future Speech-Language Pathologist in your life, you've probably realized that our lives REVOLVE around our field! I often see posts on FBgroups asking for unique gift ideas to get their speechie student. Well LOOK NO FURTHER! Check out TSM's gift guide for the 3 types of SLP Students and what they'll love!
1. The Crafty Clinician
This is the person who always has the BEST therapy materials in clinic and is full of creative ideas! You won't go wrong if you stuff their stockings with these great gifts!
Scotch Thermal Laminator and Sleeves you can find these on amazon for as low as $21.99 and the sleeves will vary depending on how many come in a pack (hint: get the big pack!)
2. The Academic All-Star
Check out these ideas for your lovable nerd whose organization and love for academia know no bounds!
3. The Social Butterfly
This is your fashionable speechie who loves going to conferences and networking with others in the field!
I’ve decided to address the most popular question I receive: HOW DO I GET INTO SLP GRAD SCHOOL WHEN I DON’T HAVE A 3.9 GPA?!! While I do not claim to possess the answer to the question I can share my story in hopes that it will inspire or assist someone else in their journey!! Check out my post below!
UPDATE 1/13/2016: I never could have imagined how many people this post would have connected with when I wrote it. At the very least, I hoped it would inspire others not to give up! I am so happy that my journey has resonated with so many and I LOVE HEARING FROM YOU! Really, every single email, Facebook message and blog comment that I read makes me feel honored to be apart of your story and offer insight when I can. HOWEVER, that does not qualify me to give you an accurate percentage, forecast or prediction regarding YOUR PARTICULAR acceptance to a graduate program (I soooooo wish it could). I can only hope that sharing my story and creating an open space for dialogue and exchange will foster the courage and confidence that you need to GIVE IT A SHOT!
First let’s do a recap about me… I started out in school as a music major (vocal performance) and by the time I declared a SLP major junior year I was so excited at the prospect of still being able to graduate on time that I did not realize how demanding and challenging my major was until I’d failed my first phonetics exam! Needless to say it was a bumpy road to my bachelors degree. I was passionate and excited and so very curious about our field but somehow NONE of that jumped out at you when you looked at my average transcripts. I remember feeling so much anxiety and stress about how I was going to get to the next phase. When I got rejection letters, I felt so defeated! I internalized it as they were saying despite working my butt off I was a failure because I didn’t have a 3.99 gpa. Sound familiar? Take it from me and DO NOT DESPAIR! You can get into a graduate program even if your grades/test scores aren’t stellar ! You just have to focus that passion and zeal on highlighting your uniqueness and NOT ACCEPT DEFEAT! That being said, here are 5 choices I made that I believe greatly impacted my graduate school application.
1. WORKED ABROAD
When I graduated with my bachelor of science degree in Speech Pathology, I was emotionally, physically and mentally drained. I knew that I was not ready to transition straight into a grad program. Instead, I decided to take a chance of a lifetime. I bought a ticket to Paris and accepted a position teaching English to French students in the south of France. The program was sponsored by the French Ministry of Education (http://highereducation.frenchculture.org/teach-in-france) and employed a significant number of American teaching assistants each year to serve as the “language experts” for their assigned sites. I spent an academic year living and working at a high school in Brignoles, France and it changed my life. Not only did I become bilingual, but also the confidence I gained through travelling Europe and making it in a foreign country repaired a lot of damage to my spirit after undergrad. Yes, it was a bit Eat, Pray Love’ish but this enhanced my resume and enriched my personal statement a lot.
2. PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE IN THE FIELD
I worked for one year as a licensed Speech-Language Pathology Assistant (SLPA) at an elementary school. I highly recommend doing this if you aren’t sure that you want to remain in the field. Working as an SLPA confirmed my love for my profession and gave me loads of skills and training (i.e. ABA, PECS) that supplemented my application packet. Through networking and professionalism I was able to get references from individuals who could attest to my skills and potential as a clinician, which also supplemented my application. While only certain states license SLPA’s, any type of job that requires you to utilize your SLP degree is great when you’re trying to get into grad school. (Check here to see if your state licenses SLPA’s : http://www.asha.org/advocacy/state/)
3. GRE SCORES
Standardized tests are REALLY not my area of strength. However, the lower your gpa is, the higher your GRE scores need to be. I did okay the first time, but I knew I needed to have above average gre scores to strengthen my application. I did this by taking a KAPLAN course online. Yes, it is pricey BUT I purchased it on Black Friday at a huge discount and signed up for the payment plan! It took long nights of studying and class sessions but I was very pleased with the quality of the course as well as my GRE scores the second time around.
When talking grad school with other applicants I often heard things like “well, I’m only applying to these schools because I can’t leave my boyfriend” or “I don’t like the west coast so I’m only applying in state”. While I TOTALLY respect love and state pride, you need to ask yourself “ HOW BAD DO YOU WANT THIS?” Getting into a school isn’t easy and there are some non-negotiable things everyone has to have in a school. But if you find you have 20 MUST HAVES on your list, you may want to go back and re-evaluate whether you are truly prepared to embark on this journey. I am originally from the Midwest and it took me to leave my state, then the country, move down south then again to VA in order to get to school. It’s not always going to be convenient and sometimes you have to be willing to open yourself up to the options that aren’t most appealing (i.e. leaving the state).
5. PERSONAL STATEMENT
After my SLP Eat, Pray Love journey I sat down and TOTALLY rewrote my personal statement. I’d never realized before how much of the original one was written with the intent to impress or tell the committee what I thought they wanted to hear. It took for me to gain some significant experiences to realize that I just need to be myself. A strong sense of self coupled with a well written and polished delivery is what will set you apart from all the rest. Tell your story, share your passion and if you take nothing else away from this, KNOW THAT YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH!
I hope this has helped you! Please feel free to comment below if you have any tips for Grad School applicants!
Does anyone else find their Swallowing class incredibly complex and detailed!? Check out my study packet to help you review some key concepts!
Hello! I'm Treasyri (pronounced "treasure" but that's another story). I'm a graduate of Western Michigan University and Hampton University where I completed my M.A. in Communicative Sciences and Disorders. I now practice with my Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) in Virginia.