A fellow student asked me how nervous I was when I tested and finally got my black belt in May. A little background is necessary, because this was my third test.
The first time I tested, I was so nervous that I went to the ATM the day before, and left the cash in the ATM machine. Fortunately the ATM sucked the money back before somebody else came along. However, a Joshu at our school heard about it, and at the test was telling me how he had a free trip to the test because he "went up to the ATM, and some idiot had left $100 in it." He was joking with me because he was trying to get me relaxed. I went to that test with my friend the Hulk, and we both had the classic signs of nervousness--cotton mouth, multiple trips to the bthroom, etc. I passed self defense moves at the test, but didn't get all the way to the kickboxing and grappling.
The next time I tested, in November 2007, I was definitely nervous, but doing much better than the previous time. Although, I think the day before, I went to the ATM, took the money...and left my card in the machine. It also got sucked back in, so nobody drained my bank account.
It was at that November test that my ACL got destroyed, and I had to quit with about three minutes left. The afore-metioned Joshu, who's a real card, was telling me he wasn't surprised I didn't pass, because my wife "told him" that I "never lasted four minutes between the legs with anybody." This time he was trying to cheer me up.
I was enjoying the test up until I got hurt--in particular, I enjoyed the stand-up kickboxing part of the test. I think because I had been to one tournament previously, I was less nervous about it.
When I went for my third time last month, I looked, on the surface, fairly calm, I think. But I was nervous underneath. The day before the test, I showed up to meet someone an hour earlier than I was supposed to and left in confusion.
On the day of the test, my knee was a bit sore, and I didn't really know whether it was because I hurt it a bit training for the test, or whether my knee was "nervous" about returning to the scene of its injury. The hardest part of the test was waiting while the other candidates went through all the parts I had previously passed. I definitely had "fight or flight" syndrome. Once I got on the mat for grappling, it was a relief--and at that point, I started having fun.
I guess the pattern is, the anticipation is terrifying, but the test itself is often fun.