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Christine Paul Cardenas

How To Overcome Test Anxiety

Have you ever felt stressed out about an exam? Here is a look at what test anxiety is, and how you can overcome it.

Have you ever felt so stressed out about an exam that your family ended up bringing you to the emergency room? That was me many many years ago when I was younger. I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder when I was in my late teens and it was still there in my early 20s. My physician also diagnosed me with “test anxiety.”

Here is a look at what test anxiety is, and how you can overcome it.

According to LearningCenter, test anxiety is… “a combination of physical symptoms and emotional reactions that interfere with your ability to perform well on tests.”

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), “Anxiety disorders are real, serious medical conditions - just as real and serious as physical disorders such as heart disease or diabetes. Anxiety disorders are the most pervasive mental disorders in the United States.”

What are the things that you can do to overcome it? Here are the things that worked for me.

1. Trust yourself

Although it is true that “situational anxiety” is normal, you have to trust your skills. Stop thinking negatively about yourself. Believe that you can do it – you will pass the test and do great things. When you have a thing called “test anxiety” or some other type of “anxiety disorder,” your mind will cause you to worry. It will never feel like you’ve had enough preparation, but at some point, you have to trust yourself and take the exam. After all, it’s just an exam and you know that you can handle it.

2. Just relax and stop overthinking

Find ways to relax your mind and body before you take an exam. I’ve discovered that deep breathing exercises and meditation have worked for me.

Just relax and stop overthinking, although it is easier said than done. Creating more worry won’t add more points to your grades. Don’t get too stressed if one or some of your tests didn’t go as well as you had hoped for. If you were hoping for an A but you got a B instead, you should still be thankful. You passed! Celebrate your success even if it is something as simple as completing the test!

3. Do the work needed

To lessen your worries and lower your level of anxiety, you have to begin your work. Start studying! For the NCLEX, start preparing for it as soon as you can. Train yourself early and often to answer NCLEX-style questions. Prepare your mind and body to be ready for a six-hour exam. After all, your goal is to pass the NCLEX, right? Do the work needed. Don’t procrastinate (although as a student I understand).

4. Don’t be lazy

 If you’re lazy, your grades might suffer. It is hard to get going some days, but you need to find the strength and motivation in yourself to pursue your dreams, even if those dreams look like homework right now. No one ever graduates and passes a licensure exam without exerting any effort on it. Prepare and study. Don’t rely on cramming since it’s not effective. Cramming may only worsen your test anxiety since you will feel enormous time pressure. Don’t wait until it’s too late to start studying.

5. Be realistic

Stop disappointing yourself by setting up unrealistic expectations. If you fail a test, don’t get discouraged and hung up on it. Try again. Make better plans that are realistic and attainable such as studying five more minutes every day. Take better actions and try to stay focused. Make SMART goals. And most importantly, let go of perfectionism. No one is perfect so don’t expect yourself to be perfect!

6. Avoid distractions

Let me guess, you are reading this when you should be studying (just kidding)! Avoid wondering what your friends or neighbors are doing. Don’t let unimportant distractions take over your study time especially things like your phone, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok and other social media.

Although it may be hard, skip parties or nights out when needed. Turn off, delete or deactivate your social media accounts. Try not to focus on unimportant things when you need to prepare for the licensure exam.

There was a time in my younger life when I quit social media cold turkey and I just focused on school and boards. Because I was able to focus, I passed everything on the first attempt with flying colors.

7. Quit comparing

Avoid the habit of asking what score your classmate got on the exam. Avoid asking your seatmate what her answer was on questions number 5, 6, or 7. It’s not healthy. Don’t compare yourself with your peers. Don’t compare your study habits with others. Just do what you have to do. Just do your best because that is what is best for you!


8. Don’t memorize

By parroting exact words or phrases from a textbook, you aren’t learning anything. As a nurse, for example, you need to understand how blood flows in the heart and throughout the whole body. A healthcare student may need to know the disease process of each disease. Every student needs to develop critical thinking and analytical skills. Memorizing the book word-for-word won’t help you pass your tests.

9. Sleep

Get plenty of sleep the night before the exam. Lack of sleep affects academic performance. Our bodies weren’t made to be awake 24/7! It will be the best thing to help calm your nerves and help you conquer your test anxiety!

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* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics 2022 / Occupational Outlook Handbook 2022. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

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