My junior year of high school, I decided to take Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus. It was hard work, but I kept an A grade both semesters. However, whenever we would complete practice problems in preparation for the standardized AP test at the end of the year, I would do very poorly. No matter how hard I tried, I struggled.
A week or two before the actual AP Calculus exam, my teacher gave us a mock exam—timing us and using an official test from a previous year. (It’s helpful to know that AP tests are scored on a five-point scale, with five being the highest. Many colleges give students credit for AP exams if they pass with a score of three or higher.) My goal was to score a three on this practice test, to ensure that I was ready for the real one and could ultimately receive college credit for the course. However, when we graded our tests during the next class period, I discovered that I’d scored nowhere close to a three. In fact, I scored just barely above a one, which is the lowest possible score.
The situation seemed hopeless. How could I possibly raise my test score even to a three in less than a few weeks’ time? Still, I was determined to pass the test. Every day after school I worked with my teacher and several peers, and in the evenings I continued to study on my own or with a friend.
The situation seemed hopeless. How could I possibly raise my test score in less than a few weeks’ time?
However, I also knew that I couldn’t just “manpower” my way to a passing grade, so along with my studying, I turned to God in prayer. Honestly, though I had prayed about countless other issues in my life, I’d never made prayer a key part of my academic preparation before. But given the other healings I’d had, I figured it could only help.
I’d learned in Christian Science that one synonym for God is Mind, and since there is only one God, there is only one Mind. I’d also learned that each of us is actually the reflection of God, which means that I reflect divine Mind, who knows and understands all. So it made sense to me that God was already giving me all the wisdom and intelligence I needed to complete the AP Calculus test with ease and joy. I also realized that I wasn’t praying to achieve a certain outcome on the test—like a specific score. Instead, I prayed simply to glorify God and to freely express the intelligence God gave me.
I also prayed with an idea from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy that says, “Spirit, God, gathers unformed thoughts into their proper channels, and unfolds these thoughts, even as He opens the petals of a holy purpose in order that the purpose may appear” (p. 506). I loved the idea that I could rely completely on God, who was unfolding the perception and understanding I needed. I understood that my purpose was to express God’s grace, joy, intelligence, and dominion, and nothing could hinder that divine purpose.
One fear that seemed pretty persistent was that I didn’t have enough time to prepare for the exam, so I began praying with Mrs. Eddy’s spiritual definition of day in Science and Health. Part of the definition reads, “The objects of time and sense disappear in the illumination of spiritual understanding, and Mind measures time according to the good that is unfolded” (p. 584). I realized that I didn’t need to limit myself by measuring my preparation in hours and days. Instead, I could recognize the abundance of good that I was experiencing each day and look at time in terms of how much good had been accomplished. With this understanding as my new foundation, I began to make quick progress, and started answering past AP test questions on my own—correctly! My fear dropped away as I consistently gave gratitude for both the tutoring help I was receiving and the God-given ideas that were spiritualizing my whole approach to the exam.
Throughout the exam, I held closely to the idea that I was expressing the unlimited intelligence God imparts.
When test day rolled around, I felt calm, confident, and prepared. Throughout the exam, I held closely to the idea that God was giving me the ability to express unlimited intelligence. Not only did I finish the test on time, but I also completed every problem with trust in God and a feeling of assurance that I was doing it correctly. It was an incredibly joyful and uplifting experience to rely on God and to know that He was guiding me at every moment. When I completed the test, I felt relaxed and confident that I had passed. Believe it or not, the grade didn’t even matter to me; I’d felt so close to God during the test and known so clearly that I was expressing the unlimited intelligence that has its source in divine Mind, not in me. And that was enough!
Later, I found out that I didn’t just pass with a three; I had scored a five on the test! I was overjoyed and overflowing with gratitude to God.
This was the first of many experiences I’ve had of turning to God when I needed help with academics. And each time, I’ve seen a little more clearly how knowing God as the one Mind brings a release from fear and pressure and a confidence that every necessary idea is already present for me to perceive and understand. I know now that God helps and guides everyone in any situation—even with tests!