Calming ESL Testing Anxiety

Words like: TOEFL, IELTS, TOEIC, UKVI can conjure up feelings of worry, or perhaps, even horror. (Okay, so these tests are not technically words, they are acronyms, but you get what I’m saying.) BUT it doesn’t have to be that way, my friend. What if when you heard the word, TOEFL, you framed your mind in such a way that you now replaced those negative images with positive ones? It can happen, and here’s the secret.


Nerves are a part of life; they are here to stay… unfortunately. However, let’s do a mini-visualization, shall we? This means you are going to close your eyes, not right now, but after you read this, and then you can try this exercise out on your own. Now think about what the worst possible scenario is for NOT getting the score that you need for IELTS, for example? Did the world just end? Is your life OVER? Did aliens come down and kidnap you? No, of course not. Are you disappointed? Sure, but you are still a living and breathing human, so this means that you are able to try again to get the score that you need. The world will continue on whether or not you get the right score. To me, that’s pretty powerful because it shows me the worst possible outcome, and SURPRISE— the world lives to see another day. AND it means that so do you.


If the above part didn’t do it for you, then this will. Write down a list of the top five concerns you have about NOT getting the score that you need. Maybe it looks like this:


  1. Turn down the exciting, new job offer.

  2. Stuck in a job I hate.

  3. No FUN challenges.

  4. Live a boring life.

  5. What if???


If it doesn’t, that’s fine, too. You need to focus on what you’re going to do to remedy the above list. What can you do NOW to guarantee, or ALMOST guarantee that you will not be in that situation? Create a specific plan to get to where you want to be, and be REALLY specific, please. Spend no more than thirty minutes figuring out what will be YOUR plan. Here’s an idea to get you started:


  1. Spend one hour a day (6pm-7pm) on ___________ (IELTS module that you feel needs the most improvement)

  2. Spend 30-minutes daily (7:15pm-7:45pm) reading articles about subjects that I’m unfamiliar with

  3. Ask a friend to be my IELTS buddy (this person is someone who will facilitate the role of the examiner in the Speaking test) & practice the entire speaking test for 20 minutes every other day (Monday, Wednesday and Friday only)

  4. Listen to a clip of a 10-minute podcast about a topic that is new to me (10 minutes every day)


Make sense? Good! Give this a go, and I KNOW that with a clear plan you can turn those anxieties into mastery.


Until next time, happy IELTSing!


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©2020 by Lori Llarena, The IELTS Whisperer.