In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Tests have always made me anxious. I seem to remember some friends in school who lived for exams, or any other opportunities to showcase their brilliance. But for me, tests were hideous inventions created to expose my flaws and hang them in the public square for the world to see.
Then there was the test before the test, because it was possible to fail by default if I didn’t follow directions. Three surefire ways to fail an exam were to 1) be absent without an excuse, 2) forget to write one’s name on the upper right-hand corner of the test sheet, and 3) have the audacity to show up with anything but two #2 pencils.
The #2 pencil rule puzzled me for many years. I understood why we were asked to bring two pencils. It was easy to break a pencil lead in a moment of frustration. But why were #2 pencils required? Beyond this, what was special about a #2 pencil?
Later in life, my extensive research uncovered the mystery. Pencil lead (which, in recent years has been replaced with graphite), is rated by density. Lower numbers signified softer lead and higher numbers signified harder lead. When computer test sheets started to appear, it was discovered a #1 pencil lead was prone to smear, and #3 or #4 pencils left marks that were too light for the computer to read. The #2 pencil, however, hit the sweet spot, and became the required tool for students everywhere.
I still remember sitting at my desk on test day with my #2 pencils, and my name on the upper right-hand corner of the answer sheet. As I waited for the exam to begin I felt good. At that point I had a perfect score! I was even ahead of a student or two that had failed to follow directions. Unfortunately, in most cases, that was as good as I was going to feel that day.
Perhaps it was my ability to excel in the preparatory portion of school tests that led me to a life-long obsession with readiness. I don’t like my real-life tests any more than my old academic ones, but I am still inclined to focus on those things I can do as I brace myself for things over which I have little control.
What causes the greatest anxiety in your life? Preparing for the test, or facing it?