Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Customs Broker Examination, CH 2, Part 1: Mastering Apprehension & Anxiety

The following is an excerpt of The Customs Broker Examination, by Scott Warren Taylor and Andrew Moxon. This book is a part of the Customs Broker Exam Preparation Course from Boskage Commerce Publications. We'll be posting a large excerpt here, with new posts every Tuesday and Thursday morning. Click here if you want to read the whole book right away.


Part 1: Mastering Apprehension and Anxiety

Many students could take a lesson from those who have attempted the CBE and failed. With each succeeding attempt, the hidden problem of anxiety diminishes and the real work of study, memorization, and strategy formulation begins. Talk to someone who is about to take the test for the first time and the comments are most often sprinkled with apprehension, but those who have tried and failed make specific commitments: “The next time, I’m going to start studying earlier,” or, “The next time, I’m going to take more practice tests.”

If you probe deeply enough, there is little doubt that anxiety – and its detrimental effects on study habits and performance – is the single most common reason for failure to pass the CBE. No one goes into the CBE without some level of apprehension, no matter how experienced they are. A manageable level of apprehension can actually heighten mental prowess and result in improved test scores. Low-level apprehension can be beneficial as it can keep a student from becoming complacent.

For many, apprehension remains slight, sometimes virtually undetectable. For unfortunate others, however, apprehension evolves into anxiety. Anxiety is destructive; before it runs its course, anxiety can become completely debilitating. Therefore, its presence invites failure. In the clutches of anxiety, we tend to invent excuses for why we cannot succeed. We become ill. Sometimes we back out of the exam only days before we are due to take it, simply because of anxiety. By itself, it can destroy all other preparations, all methods of study, all abilities to use our carefully collected, hard-won knowledge.

The Results of Anxiety

• Anxiety causes us to invent sudden, additional responsibilities to avoid making a strong
• commitment to success. We leave ourselves an “out.”
• Anxiety causes us to procrastinate, avoiding the kind of intense study sessions necessary to pass the examination.
• Anxiety can make study time less effective.
• Anxiety can cause sleeplessness.
• Anxiety can cause us to back out at the last minute.
• Anxiety causes confusion and frustration in the examination room.
• Anxiety can cause us to avoid reaching out to knowledgeable people for help.

As you can see, anxiety can manifest itself in a myriad of subtle, unproductive ways. Once anxiety sinks in its claws, it is difficult to get rid of it – in many ways more difficult than fear. The reason is that fear in general is directed toward an object, like dogs, tall buildings, or airplanes. Confront or remove the object, and the fear generally disappears. This is not the case with anxiety. One must not conclude that by simply removing the object of anxiety, one will eventually destroy the negative emotion, because the “object” of anxiety is probably comprised of dozens of bits of information gathered in the course of our lives and (perhaps) bits of information given to us as a genetic “gift.”

Anxiety is not focused, as is fear, but is diffuse and therefore difficult to combat. Difficult, but not impossible, because like all emotions, anxiety is an emotion selected by us. We choose to be anxious as a response to feelings and thoughts. We cannot say that the object of anxiety is simply our fear of failure.

Failure in itself is not a direct object, but a collection of possible objects. Fear of failing the CBE carries with it dozens of implications of what our boss, friends, spouse might say or think of us, of our own self-doubts about our ability to succeed, of our personal esteem, and so on. We must learn to leave all of this out of the process of examination preparation.

This concludes today's excerpt from The Customs Broker Examination.

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