The test is today. Last night you may have eked out a few hours sleep and your stomach has been twisting itself into cold knots all morning long. The test begins, you look at the first question, and everything you studied, every practice question, mnemonic and lab value just goes right out the window.
Your mind is blank and suddenly your fight or flight response kicks in and you’re definitely considering fleeing. Test anxiety. Most students are a little nervous going into a test – but test anxiety is completely different; and if you’ve made it as far as nursing school, you already know whether or not the idea of taking a test gives you the cold sweats and extreme anxiety.
For nursing students, you’ve got the big bad NCLEX exam standing guard to the entrance of your nursing career. Most who take it experience test anxiety, so you wouldn’t be the first. Maybe you’ve tried study methods or relaxation techniques. Maybe you just power through it. Well, we’ve got 12 strategies that will help you conquer test anxiety so that the next time you sit down for a test or exam, all you’ll be feeling is the urge to slay it.
Test Anxiety: What It Is And Isn’t
What exactly is test anxiety? Well, if you’ve ever experienced it you may just say sheer terror, but test anxiety is properly categorized as a type of performance anxiety. It has a wide variety of fun symptoms that include: difficulty thinking or concentrating, negative emotions (fear, shame, anger, guilt), panic attacks, light-headedness, headaches, racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, and bonus – diarrhea!!
Yeah, it’s unpleasant. But what test anxiety isn’t – it isn’t a weakness or failing of people who experience it. It doesn’t mean they’re incapable or stupid. And with the tips we’re going to show you, you can take control of any test anxiety you may feel.
12 Strategies To Conquer Test Anxiety
Before we hit the strategies, there are two things you need to do: manage your fears and expectations and realize that nobody’s perfect.
- Recognizing the difference between realistic fears and unfounded fears
A realistic fear: I’m not prepared, I might not pass this test.
An unfounded fear: Everyone’s going to think I’m stupid and shouldn’t be in nursing school.
- Stop being a perfectionist
Simply put: Nobody in this world of nearly 8 billion people is perfect – that includes you. It’s OK to strive for perfection but perfection doesn’t exist in an imperfect world and that’s just fine.
1. Keep Things In Perspective
A little text anxiety is OK; it can give you the energy you’ll need to stay sharp during the test.
Keep things in perspective – even if you fail the test, you’ll live to fight another day. But it’s the NCLEX!! you say – doesn’t matter, even if you fail to guess what – they’ll let you take it again and you won’t be the first or last to take the NCLEX more than once.
2. Be Prepared
Don’t think you can cram for tests, especially the NCLEX exam. You can’t learn by osmosis; you’re going to have to study and prepare – sorry. But when you’ve put in the work, know the material, and are ready – it’s a good feeling. If you know that you’ve done everything you can to prepare – nothing else matters.
Maybe you’re unsure exactly what are the best ways to prepare, here are some resources to help you out:
- Get one of the best NCLEX prep books out there – it’s one of the most important NCLEX study tools.
- Maybe you’ve got questions on what are the best ways to study for the NCLEX – you can find out here.
- Here are some genius tips and tricks to help you pass the NCLEX the first time.
3. Get A Good Night’s Sleep
Easier said than done, right? Especially when you’re feeling anxious. But without the proper sleep, your brain won’t be functioning at 100%. You need at least 7 – 9 hours of good sleep the night before the test. Exercise, a regular sleep schedule, mindfulness, meditation, and melatonin are ways to help you get to sleep.
4. Take Care Of Your Health
You’ve got to take care of your health. We mentioned the importance of sleep above, but you also need to:
- Eat healthy food, regularly (make sure you eat well before your test)
- Regular exercise not only keeps you fit; it also helps manage anxiety
- Practice some self-care to help ease stress
- Caffeine can make anxiety worse, so watch your caffeine intake
5. Visualize Your Success
Get in the right frame of mind by visualizing yourself passing the test. Professional athletes and high-performing people all use visualization to help them reach their goals because it works.
6. Be Positive
Did you know that you can think yourself happy? Try it. Don’t listen to negative, downbeat thoughts because they aren’t going to help you ace that test. Try some positive affirmations.
You can do it. You’re smart, capable, and prepared.
7. Try Breathing Techniques And Meditation
Breathing techniques, mindfulness, and meditation are excellent ways to control your anxiety.
Breathing technique: Breathe in for 5 counts – Hold for 5 counts – Breathe out 5 counts
8. Go Early
Simple – start your day early and get to your test early. It will give you time to set up and get situated. If you’re feeling anxious, you’ll have plenty of time for a relaxation technique.
9. Take Your Time
Even if the test is timed – don’t rush yourself. Set a pace and stick to it. If you’re worried about the time, just keep an eye on it. A wristwatch is a good option since you can’t always have your phone with you during a test.
10. Focus, Focus, Focus
Don’t focus so hard you give yourself an aneurysm. Just stick to the task at hand and don’t let your mind wander. Don’t worry about everyone else – you do you.
11. Stop And Regroup
If your mind goes blank or you’re hitting a wall – stop and regroup. If you can stand up or take a break do it. If anxiety starts creeping up, do a relaxation technique to help you get back into the zone.
12. Just Do It
Sometimes getting starting is the hardest part, so just do it. Jump in and get it done, don’t sit around thinking about how nervous or anxious you feel. Once you start, you’ll get into the exam and forget about everything else.
Test anxiety can feel impossible to overcome, debilitating, and overpowering. Just remember that even if you fail – you’re still alive and kicking. But if you use these 12 techniques, you can laugh at Test Anxiety while you rub the test you just aced all in its ugly face.
And guess what? If you don’t pass the NCLEX the first time – they’ll let you take it as many times as you need to pass it.