How to Beat Exam Anxiety and Career Transition Blues


In the past few months, I have been studying and trying to pass an exam for Insurance and Investments, called the LLQP, or Life License.  At the same time, I have been looking into the field of Finance as a career alternative.

It has been a long process, and recently I decided to give up.  I said to myself:

Self, what the Hades are you doing?  The summer’s here, and you’ve been missing out on the Great Outdoors.  You’ve been wasting all this time studying for your test.  Come on, man, get with the program!  Find another career!  You’ve been wasting all this time studying, and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

And what a struggle it is.  Sure, I’ve researched and decided to go into this field, but with all the time and energy I’ve burnt up studying for this friggin’ test, I’ve been getting discouraged.

But what else is there?  What other career is going to help me feed my family?  Sure I can speak Chinese, but who cares, so can 1.3 billion other people!  Which field can you enter without studying?

So now I have to really think over carefully my decision to enter the field of Finance.  It’s a big cost in time, money and effort to enter this field.  But then, the same goes for any field.

So after a 15 minute information interview with one of the Money Coaches who taught me a couple classes of Train the Trainer: Basic Financial Literacy, I figured that this is still a good field, it just depends on your Entry Point.  Then I phoned up the fellow who seriously wants to hire me for his company once I pass the LLQP exam.  I was very honest, and told him that I had a lot of doubts about selling insurance.  He answered my suspicions one by one and in the end I thought it may not be the best choice to give up after 4 months of studying.  Upon hearing that I had been doing so much research about the field, he said: “Your problem sounds like ‘PARALYSIS BY ANALYSIS”: you’re over-analysing, but not focusing on your goals.”

This is true.  Dale Carnegie once said in his How to Stop Worrying and Start Living:

Basic Techniques in Analyzing Worry

  1. Get all the facts.
  2. Weight all the facts – then come to a decision.
  3. Once a decision is reached, act!
  4. Write out and answer the following question:
    > What is the problem?
    > What are the causes of the problem?
    > What are the possible solutions?
    > What is the best possible solution?

– from both and, accessed Aug 13/12, 3:14 pm PST.

Instead of fooling around with self-doubt and over-research, make a decision and then move out!  Time is of the essence.  Use it wisely!


I learned a lot about my own ability to study (or not study when I should) these past few months.  For example:

1. I often get “cold feet” before the wedding, I mean the test, and want to cancel it the night before.  I have done this probably 10x in the past few months.

2. I have not booked time ahead reserved for studying.  I should look at my calendar, then mark off specific time to study, and make a plan of WHAT to study.  The LLQP course offers a 21 or 40 day outline for study, but I ignored them.  Stupid me.

3. I have to figure out how my own brain works.  How can I remember information?  For example, I have been:

– reading through the textbook, making simple notes in the margins

– actually recording out loud the entire coursebook.  I found this really helped me.  I propped the book on my dresser, or my portable computer table, laid the book or website course sample tests, and read aloud the content into my smart phone recording software.  Then while driving or jogging, I would listen to these recordings.

– making cue cards from index cards I had bought from the Dollar Store near my house.  I wrote the topic on the blank side, and the formula, or vital information on the lined side.

– watching the course website lectures and taking notes.  I even recorded the entire summary lectures into my phone, and often listen to them.

So I still need to go through the results for the past two time I failed (out of 3 fails), analyse where my weaknesses are and then study the appropriate materials.

It’s harder to study when my son is with me.  His time with my wife and me is one week on, one week off.  The other week he stays with my ex.  I usually feel bad if I ignore him in order to study.  So I usually make sure he is doing work of his own, something useful.

I guess I also feel guilty about neglecting my wife while studying, so I have to schedule special one-on-one time with her.  She is studying the same program as me, but at a much slower pace, because English is her second language, and the Insurance and Investment fields are completely alien to her.


These are some tips I have figured out over the past few months and years:

– Study when your mind is fresh, when you are rested and not tired.  Find your peak mental absorption time of day, and schedule your study time then.  Bear in mind that during your non-peak times, you may actually find that your mind is clear.  So take advantage of the “good feeling” and study a bit at that time too.

– Constantly summarise the material and put it into your own words.  Make little acronyms or memorisation formulae that can help stimulate your memory.

– Get rid of distractions.  For me, I spend a lot of time blogging or watching movies or reading books or newspaper or Internet articles when I should be studying.  Sometimes I have to leave my house, and take off to our local McDonald’s to people watch and study at the same time.  I don’t know how much I absorb, but it’s better than nothing.

– Experiment.  Try out different methods to help yourself study, grasp and memorise your materials.

– Don’t worry.  As I quoted above, check out Dale Carnegie’s HOW TO STOP WORRYING AND START LIVING.  Listen to it on Youtube.  Download it.  Absorb it.  Digest it.  Live it.

– It may help to find a study buddy.  I sometimes study with my wife, and it seems to help.

– Don’t read too many outside materials.  I was taking books out of the library, reading articles on the Net concerning Finance, but what I really should be doing is focusing on the course materials I’ve been given.

– Aim to pass and get a good score.  Don’t just shoot at getting a barely passing mark.  Shoot high.  Try to master the material at hand.  It will be well worth it when you get into the exam.

– If the exam doesn’t allow you to go to the bathroom, go see a doctor and get her or him to write you a note.  Since I’m on a diet requiring a lot of liquid intake and frequent bathroom breaks, I got a doctor’s note to allow the Exam Proctors to seat me near the door and take a bathroom break when needed.  Then I can cheat and look at the secret notes I’ve hidden under the bathroom sink . . . . just joking!

– Don’t get into arguments with your spouse, kids, fellow students, friends, or anyone else.  This will use up your energy and mental capabilities, when you should focus on studying instead.

– Figure out what you’ll be tested on.  For example, with our LLQP exam, the test is a 140 4-hour Multiple Choice test.  We therefore have to focus on doing what I mention in the next point.  Understanding the text is not enough.  You have to specifically study for what the exam content and structure demands.


  • Read the answer choices first, then go back and read the question.
  • Eliminate stupid answers first, and go with the most logical.
  • Pace yourself.  If it’s a 4 hour exam, and you have 140 questions, then you need to answer how many questions per hour?  So keep looking at the clock and making sure you’re on schedule.
  • Do the tougher questions first, then leave the easy ones for later when you are running out of sleep.
  • Get a good sleep the night before, or if it is an evening exam, ensure that you are well rested in the daytime.
  • Don’t rely on coffee, tea, energy drinks or other stimulating  beverages.  They may give you fake energy for awhile, but then your body will “crash” afterward, which could very well be DURING the exam.  Dangerous.  Also, from experience I say this, they make you less patient and more jumpy, which could be detrimental to your test-taking and its results.
  • Do a “Brain Dump” as soon as you get into the exam.  This means writing all your formulae and more difficult facts on a blank piece of paper as soon as the test starts.
  • Don’t go back and change your answers too much.  You were probably right the first time, so don’t second guess yourself too much.
  • Make sure you have memorised your important formulae or facts before you get to the exam.  The night before is a time for review and reflection, not a time for learning new information.  Adequately prepare yourself a few days or weeks prior to the exam.

– Look on Google or other search engines at other people’s suggestion on Study Skills and Beating Exam Anxiety.  Ask others.  There is a lot of excellent advice out there, you just need to tap into it.

– Most of all, prepare well, be confident, expect to do well and throw your burdens on to the Creator of the universe, i.e., pray.  Even if you’re an atheist, polytheist, nihilist, agnostic or whatever, give it a shot.  You do need some outside help, after all, who created you and your brain?

Well, that about wraps it up.  If you have any Qs, shoot me an e-mail at dimitri.pravdin(*at*)


About sleepless in turtle island

Hi, I´m Dimitri. I have lived in Turtle Island for awhile now, so my cultural understanding is slowly improving. Also, I can see things in this place that boggle my mind. Thus this blog...
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