By: Jim Burton
Rapid heartbeat, palms
sweating and stomach fluttering. No it's not the flu, it's test day or
commonly known as T-Day. The only parallel to this dreaded experience is
having a policeman pull you over or receiving a letter from the I.R.S.
about an upcoming audit of last year's tax return. What is it about the
gymnastics testing process that makes intelligent, highly professional
judges cringe in fear and doubt? Unfortunately, everyone goes through
this anxiety but there are many ways to minimize the stress and remain
focused during your examination. In the April newsletter, we discussed
the importance of studying properly and enhancing your memory muscle. By
now after weeks of preparation, your memory muscle should be pumped and
ready to take on the rigors of T‑Day. The goal is treating the
examination as if it was just another study session. Regardless of the
exam you are taking, here are some tips to help you remain calm and
Depending on when the
exam is given, morning or evening, maintain your normal daily ritual
as you would at work or home. If you have coffee at 9:15 am you
should bring a thermos with you into the exam. If you have a small
snack during the time the exam is held, make sure you bring food
with you. Maintaining a normal routine is crucial and will help your
body and mind react accordingly.
Do not stand outside
the exam room conversing with anyone who is hyper and overly
nervous. Silly statements they make will confuse you and increase
your willingness to doubt yourself.
Once inside, after
filling out the obligatory paperwork and computer answer sheets,
close your eyes and take five slow, deep breaths before turning over
the examination booklet. [I always add a quick prayer here too!]
If you are taking a
compulsory exam, on your scrap paper immediately list out the
elements and their values, casting angles with deductions and any
specific rules such as deliberate omission of a major element. If
taking the optional exam, write down the special requirements for
bars, beam and floor, and list the connection value formulas for
bonus. It's also helpful to jot down turns and leaps if they have
differing values on beam and floor. This simple five‑minute process
will calm you down and reassure you of the core knowledge you are
very familiar with. I also find it much easier to write my answers
on scrap paper first and then transpose them to the computer sheet.
If you are not convinced of your choice on a question, [for example
A or C], just put a question mark next to your answer and review it
The next important
step is go immediately to the event or section of the exam you are
most confident about. Never start with an event you historically
struggle with because if you unsure about any of the first few
questions, anxiety and frustration are sure to follow. Familiarity
If you are unsure
about any answer after reading the question a second time, leave the
question immediately and go on. You will be amazed when you return
to that particular question twenty minutes later how easily you
recognize the correct answer. Excessive pondering will only
frustrate you and possibly cause more errors.
Laughter helps. If you
determine an answer and it does not appear as one of the four
options, don't panic, just chuckle to yourself and admit that you
either added improperly or read the question too quickly. Read it
again slowly and find your error.
A key point regarding
compulsories ‑ look for key words in the question such as total
maximum deduction. Unless you recognize a specific element
deduction, the authors of these exams are usually asking for
deductions from the general execution table.
If taking the film,
bring many pens with you just in case one runs out in the middle of
an exercise. Do not be alarmed if you are .30‑.40 away from the Base
Score because the USAG range is very generous. The key is to listen
to the breakdown of total execution taken, composition/artistry and
what bonus credit was given. If you did not give a questionable
bonus connection and they did, it's a simple adjustment for the
remainder of the event.
Always, I repeat
always, trust yourself and your instincts. If you feel in your head
that your score is too high or low on your paper, adjust it
accordingly. The computer only cares about the score you enter on
the answer sheet, not how you achieved it.
It is important to
reiterate that you are simply trying to pass the exam. Take pride in
every judging exam you pass realizing how much work and preparation was
involved. Your true knowledge, abilities and professionalism will shine
every time you walk out on the floor as a rated gymnastics official.