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Don't Look at the Scoreboard: What Coach Nick Saban Can Teach Us About Tests

"Don't look at the scoreboard. Whether you're ahead or behind shouldn't affect how you participate."
-Coach Nick Saban

If you're a college Student, Thanksgiving break has likely ended by now, and your classes are back in session. If you're like most students, the dread of finals hanging over your shoulder is now nearing its peak. The last few weeks of the semester until finals are done can be a time of stress, anxiety, and desperation... or they can be a time of triumph, resilience, and success depending upon the student. The final grade you earn in a class is largely the product of your sustained efforts throughout the entire semester. Excellent preparation and time management skills combined with determination over the next few weeks will surely go along way towards your success. I sincerely hope that all of our college readers find this post helpful as they prepare for finals, and that their efforts during finals are greatly rewarded.

Now, if you aren't a college student, as you sit there, following along, you may be thinking something like but I'm not a college student, will this advice still apply to me? Well, the answer is yes, absolutely!!! To anyone who is preparing for any kind of test (perhaps the GED, SAT, MCAT, or something else), taking a class, or simply interested in learning more about test taking success, I invite you to continue reading, and to discover your own reasons why this advice is helpful for you!

Currently, the University of Alabama is the number one ranked college football team in the country. Alabama is lead by none other than head coach Nick Saban. Before coaching at Alabama, Saban was the head coach for the Miami Dolphins in the NFL between 2005 and 2006. Saban's resume includes multiple collegiate national championship victories, being deemed "The Most Powerful Coach in Sports" by Forbes magazine, and being one of the highest paid football coaches in the world. With a career record of 208 wins, and a win percentage of close to 80%, it's pretty clear that coach Saban knows a thing or two about success. While I myself am not an Alabama fan, I still have a lot of appreciation for Saban's coaching talent. Even if you aren't an Alabama fan, a football fan, or even a sports fan, you can hopefully still benefit from his wisdom.

Does the following scenario sound familiar to you in any way? You spend hour after hour diligently studying your notes before a test, and go in feeling prepared. When you get the test, you read the first few questions, feeling confident that you can ace them. Then, all of a sudden, you start coming across questions that you don't know how to answer. You fight the urge to panic, and keep trying the best you can, until out of nowhere the professor yells out that you only have 10 minutes left! You see many of your classmates already forming a line to turn their tests in. You raise your hand to ask a question, only to find that 6 other students have their hands up at the same time. You give up in dismay, and try to figure out the next answer. The instructor then interrupts and announces that there are now only 5 minutes left! You gulp as you realize you still have many questions to answer, and you enter full-blown panic mode!

Were you able to find any part of that scenario that you can relate to? Unfortunately, many students learn the hard way that just preparing well for a test doesn't guarantee you a good grade; you must also be able to perform well under the stress of testing. One aspect of test taking skills that is often overlooked is how you perform during the last 15 minutes or so of the test. On your next test, if you find yourself in crunch time with a handful of questions still left to answer, remember Saban's advice. Rather than panicking, what if you simply took a deep breath and focussed all of your attention on getting the next question right? Don't worry about the other questions you haven't answered yet, and don't even look at the clock! Forget about going back to check the answers you already have down, and most importantly, avoid speculating about what your grade will be! Just tell yourself I'm going to concentrate right now on getting all of the points I can on this question, then I'm going to go to the next question and do the same. Nothing should matter to you except for getting every last point that you can!

Let me be very clear here, I am not suggesting that you should ever completely ignore how much time there is left, or that you that you should only spend the remaining time on one question if you have many left. The point is that often times when students get too worked up about not having enough time to finish a test, or to check their answers, they prevent themselves from maximizing their score. During a test, never, ever, give up! If you ever find yourself thinking you're doing horribly, remind yourself that the next question is a new question! Dig your feet in, grit your teeth, and do your best to take down that question, regardless of your performance up until that point. It's best to target the remaining questions that you feel most confident about first, so don't be afraid to guess and move on if you think a question will take too long to complete. Try to clear your head of all distractions, like what the other students are doing, and try to get each question right. If you choose to refuse to take your eye off the ball, and to persist no matter how impossible finishing with a good grade may seem, you will often exceed your own expectations.

Adopting coach Saban's advice as part of your test-taking mindset could be enormously beneficial to anyone. We will be posting more specific test-taking tips, tricks, and strategies in the future, but first having the right attitude in place is essential for your success. To all of our student readers facing finals in the upcoming weeks, don't be afraid to go after your exams like a champion, and never forget Saban's quote:

"Don't look at the scoreboard. Whether you're ahead or behind shouldn't affect how you participate."

Update - 01/06/2017: Part 2 is now available! Click here to get it!

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This post first appeared on Test Prep Champions, please read the originial post: here

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Don't Look at the Scoreboard: What Coach Nick Saban Can Teach Us About Tests


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