Overcoming Testing Anxiety Part 2: Test Day
Published on Dec 12, 2020. Updated on Dec 10, 2020.
This blog is based out of a two part webinar hosted by Dr. Marina Horiates, Content Manager for Test Questions at Osmosis, called Overcoming testing anxiety. Today we will be giving you the major takeaways from part two—test day tips and tricks.
It’s test day! You have done all the hard work and are ready to tackle this exam! However, your body is telling you quite the opposite. Your brain can’t seem to remember anything. Your stomach sounds like a storm brewing, and the nausea is inescapable.
This is testing anxiety trying to get the best of you—but it doesn't have to! Try these tips to prepare for test day to beat test anxiety and do your best on that exam.
What to do the night before your test
Just like the night before a flight or a big road trip, you check that you are ready and will leave nothing behind. The same approach should be taken for a test. You want to make sure that nothing holds you back from taking your exam!
Prepare your supplies and snacks
The night before make sure you pack all the essentials for the exam. You know what you need to succeed. Instead of cramming last minute materials, take the time to make sure sure you pack your student ID, snacks high in protein (no need for that sugar crash), and a sweater (exam rooms can be cold).
After you have made sure that all is packed, make sure you get in a 30-minute light cardio session. Go for a jog, do some pilates or yoga, meditate, or even just take a walk. This will ease you into the night and help you get some good sleep. Try to get to bed at a time that will allow 8 hours of sleep.
What to do the morning of the exam
It’s hype time! You have done everything the night before to prepare. Like an athlete powers up before a game, you should also prepare your mind to focus on getting to the test and conquering!
Eat a meal high in protein
In order for our mind to stay focused, you don’t need any sugar crash accidents. High protein during breakfast will surely avoid this. For example, hard boiled eggs, veggie omelette, overnight oats with berries, and Greek yogurt.
Limit caffeine intake
Are you a regular coffee or tea drinker? It's okay to stick to your usual, but it’s recommended that you reduce the amount of caffeine you intake. Don’t eliminate it the morning of an exam (you don’t want withdrawal symptoms). However, if caffeine is not your usual, it wouldn’t be wise to drink a grande Americano the morning of your exam.
How to deal with distractions during the exam
You made it to your exam! You're now in front of the computer or paper and staring at question 1, except, your mind is flooded with doubt and your thoughts are racing! You can feel yourself getting distracted; your heart is racing. Let’s talk about some ways to get your focus back on the test.
Focus on the present! Grounding exercises are meant to do what's in the name: Ground you into reality. Practice by naming in your head what you are doing and seeing in the present and not what your brain is projecting to the future.
For example: "I am sitting on a chair in a classroom. The computer is in front of me. I am taking a test. My feet are touching the ground. I am breathing."
This ought to help you to focus on the present and get back to the exam.
Write your thoughts down
If the grounding exercise does not help, maybe you need to transfer your thoughts onto paper. Take 5 minutes to do this, fold the paper, and deal with those thoughts after the exam.
Forget the clock
The clock is useful for preparation before the test, but during, don't focus on it too much. You should only be checking the clock once or twice throughout the exam. Remember, it takes time to check the time!
How to maintain a healthy perspective after the exam
Try your best; not to be the very best
It’s tempting to look over and compare your test scores to your peers. You want to know where you stand and that’s normal. However, if you focus on being the very best in your class, that could contribute to your testing anxiety. If you pass the test and put in the best efforts, then your score is enough!
Medical knowledge is just one core competency
Out of the six core competencies used to evaluate you during residency training, medical knowledge is just one of them. It’s an important competency but it’s not the only one that will be used to measure your success as a physician. This puts it all into a healthy, broad perspective in your medical school journey.
One or two bad test scores Are not going to ruin your chances of being a competent doctor. Write down all the competencies and post them up to remind you of the other important aspects of your pathway to MD.
How to fail gracefully
Remember that your self worth is independent of your performance on an exam.
If you struggle with testing anxiety, there may be times when you fail or barely pass an exam. It happens! It’s important to understand that practicing and learning medicine is a lifelong process. Your patients are not going to ask how you did on one exam. They will remember that you are their physician and how you impacted their health.
So, just as you would Start With the Heart when it comes to your patients, start with you first. Love yourself and encourage yourself to get up and try again. If you can practice that, imagine how easily it can be done with your future patients!
These are some of the awesome takeaways I got from part two of the webinar, but Marina shares some more helpful tips and wisdom. She went through testing anxiety of her own during her time in medical school at Johns Hopkins University. Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of Overcoming Testing Anxiety on the Osmosis Events page!
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