There are many different ways of dealing with stress and anxiety, especially in a test-taking situation. Some people tap their writing utensil against the desk, others bounce their leg up and down, while some mutter under their breath as they work through complex problems. While it’s important to perform your best on a test-taking situation, making yourself comfortable should not disrupt those around you.
A microcosm of this test-taking etiquette occurs whenever there is a high-stakes test, which usually involves standardized testing. In a standardized test, there are often a lot of regulations in place to make the test as fair as possible. Desks are set up a certain distance apart, usually in long rows. Some exams have desks immediately behind one another, while some arrangements leave plenty of room in between chairs. While test proctors try to minimize distractions, it’s impossible to create the best environment for each student. One student may find the ticking of a clock incredibly distracting, while another might respond positively to the white noise. Some environmental factors are impossible to eliminate, such as the ticking clock or the occasional sneeze or cough. However, there are other sounds that can (and should!) be eliminated.
If someone is violating the test-taking etiquette and is distracting you, don’t be a victim. Rather than causing a scene and potentially getting yourself removed from the testing area, raise your hand and wait for someone to come over. Quietly explain the issue (“The student three desks ahead of me has been tapping his pencil the entire time”) and then allow the person in charge time to address the issue. If the issue continues and is disrupting your test-taking, ask what your options are. It might be possible to take the test in another room if it’s a school exam, but for some standardized tests, like the SATs or the ACTs, there may not be another option.
If you know that you’re easily distracted during exam situations, talk to your teacher, school principal, or school counselor about testing accommodations. Sometimes, testing accommodations can carry through high school even into college or university. The most important thing to remember is that when it comes to taking tests, you want to give yourself the best chance possible to succeed, so advocate for yourself!