Have you ever felt that no matter how hard and how long you’ve studied for, you just can’t seem to be performing well on standardized exams? You’ve finished all of your UWorld, read First-Aid, finished all those ANKI cards only to find yourself freezing up or blanking out during an exam? Most of us, go through it unfortunately.
Testing anxiety is very common amongst medical students and professionals. It can serve as a motivator to keep us striving. However, at high levels, it can be our downfall and can interfere with our learning and exam performance. The nerves and stress surrounding exams can make us feel all sorts of emotions.
We, as students are exposed to all types of standardized testing. We are constantly surrounded by it, whether it’s our school exams, NBME shelf exams, USMLE exams and eventually residency board exams. It’s something we can’t escape but we push ourselves to overcome such hurdles. Speaking from personal experience, I have felt this mind-numbing testing anxiety many times but I continue to work on myself everyday to overcome it.
Now, for those who are reading this might wonder, how do I know I am suffering from it? Can one overcome such anxiety? How can something be done? I suggest taking a step back and recognizing the symptoms. Here is a brief list of the physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms you may experience possibly before, during or after an exam:
- Shortness of breath
- Fast heart rate
- Feeling of helplessness
- Excessive fear
- Mental fog
- Racing thoughts
- Negative self-talk
- Disorganized thinking
- Comparing yourself to others
The list can go on. After recognizing if you may be experiencing such things, my next piece of advice would be to dig deep to find out the underlying cause. An old failure lingering around making you feel inadequate? Lack of self-confidence? Can't stop comparing yourself? Again, the list can go on but the key is recognizing what may be giving into your pitfall and then working on yourself to move forward. Denial is also super common so try to recognize it before the anxiety starts to control you! Here are some tips/tricks I have learned:
- Breathe exercises; box-breathing is great
- Time management
- Eating healthy
- Sleeping well
- Write it down
- Talk to someone you trust
- Positive affirmations, stop thinking negative!
- Remind yourself that you are good enough
I hope that for those reading this, find some comfort knowing that you are not alone. There are effective ways to overcome this. It may not be easy but taking small steps every day will guide you onto a successful path. I truly believe in that :)
“We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it. You embrace it”
- Kobe Bryant