Overcoming Test Anxiety

Have you ever had feelings of chest discomfort, an unsettling stomach, nervousness, tachycardia and even insomnia either the day or days before an exam? If you answered yes to any of those symptoms, you’re probably a nursing student going through something called test anxiety.

Let me tell you test anxiety is so real! There were times I walked into exam day on ZERO hours of sleep. Toss, turn all night, tried sleeping aids, essential oils– any and everything under the sun… it just wouldn’t work. I would constantly worry about things like: “Did I study enough?” or “What if I don’t pass”…

I kid you not, you end up having a whole private conversation with yourself about any and everything under the sun. And before you know it, it’s 4:30am and you’re driving to school when your test isn’t even til 10:00am! But you know what’s even crazier?? That night that I didn’t sleep and arrived to school at 5:00am, one of my classmates were already sitting there. Freaked out just like me. And then it hit me.

Although this was totally unhealthy (the whole not sleeping thing)– it was totally normal.

Come to find out most of my classmates were dealing with test anxiety. It’s just not something we all want to talk about or admit to. It started in my first semester of nursing school and now that I’m in my third semester, it’s gotten much better.

Here are some things that I have learned to help me decrease my test anxiety:

1. Acceptance: Accept and realize that this anxiety comes from the fact that you don’t want to fail. That’s a good thing. I realized I was being so hard on myself because I really wanted to do well. If I didn’t care about passing with good grades then I would sleep like a baby the night before exams and not even bother to study as much as I do. I stopped beating myself up for holding my OWN self to a high standard when it came to my education.

2. Preparation: Once I realized that I had to accept that I was an overachiever, I made sure for every single exam that I prepared well. Here was my routine. Step one: Attend every single lecture. Take bomb notes– writing word for word what the teacher says. Highlight what he/she emphasises on. Step two: Go home and the very next day, start re-reading what the teacher covered in class. Step three: Make your own notes. You can rewrite concepts, print out diagrams and photos also. This was honestly the best part of learning new material for me. Im a visual learner so this helped me a lot. Now if you’re an auditory learner, ask your teacher if you can record him/her during lecture and play them back on your own time. Then re read the material and formulate your own notes. Step four: Read your notes, re-read the book on any concepts you’re not comfortable with, listen to audio recorded lectures at least 3-4 times. Every single day, dedicate at least 1-2 hours (minimum) to study. Pack this info into your brain. If you prepare well, you won’t have as much test anxiety because you know you did your part. Now you can get a good nights rest.

3. Pray: I truly believe God wouldn’t have led me on this path if he didn’t think I was capable. Every time I feel weak, every time doubt tries to settle in. I pray and ask God to provide me with the strength to keep going. I don’t expect him to do all the work, but if after I have 1. accepted the challenge, and 2. prepare well, I PRAY. Prayer has taken me from doubt to triumph on so many occasions in this past year. Many times I went into exam days on no sleep or doubting myself. But I believe God never left my side… if you reach out to him, he will do the same for you.

As my motto remains… Keep going!

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