What Is Stress?

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Much has been said and written about stress. (It's a perennial part of life, right?) But despite the fact that we're all aware of it, no two people are likely to agree on what specifically stress is, what causes it, and how to reduce it.

Stress Causing Factors

When it comes to the stress associated with standardized test taking, CAT—the company that has been in the business of reducing test stress for over 60 years—has come up with a precise and extremely useful definition:

You should think of stress as any factor, physical or psychological, that impedes your optimum performance.

To put it another way, anything that gets in the way of your scoring the best you can is a cause of stress that needs to be identified and minimized.

This means that you don't have to be aiming for the 99th percentile to be a victim of stress. Stress increases anyone's risk of falling short of his or her goals, whether s/he's aiming for the top of the scoring scale or somewhere in the middle.

And it means that even if your preparation has been the very best—if you've taken a CAT course, for instance—you nevertheless need to attend to this issue and remove as much stress as you can.

Only by doing so can all of the knowledge and technique you've developed work for you on test day.

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