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5 Ways to Overcome Test-Taking Anxiety

The journey to becoming a physician includes a lot of different exams, from the MCAT to boards, exams can come with a lot of anxiety. We’ve compiled 5 tips from the Med School Diaries team to help you overcome test-taking anxiety and master your exams.

Remember That Your Score Is Not The End All, Be All

Despite scoring in the 99th percentile on his MCAT, current M1 Harrison didn’t get accepted to medical school the first time he applied. In fact, most people who apply to medical school don’t get accepted on their first try.

This is because admissions committees take a holistic approach to medical school applicants, and they only have so many spots to offer. Even the best MCAT scorer may not have the extracurriculars, personal statement, or overall application to get in the first time. So don’t worry that a perfect score will lead to denial, you are more than your test score.

While other exams, like the USMLE Step 2 might have a bit more weight on the score, it’s important to remember that it does not define you and your ability to be a great physician. You can always get support throughout the Match process to help you find the perfect situation for you to thrive and achieve your dream.

Get an inside look at the medical school admissions process from the deans themselves. Learn about their school, how they approach the admissions process, and how you can prepare!
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Relax – Try Meditation Or Breathing Exercises

Relaxing during an exam is much easier said than done. However, practicing mindfulness could really help you on test day.

Start with 5 minutes of meditation a day, there are a lot of free resources available to guide you through the process like YouTube videos, or mobile apps. When you find something that works for you, add it to your routine so that you can learn to clear your mind of stress and focus more on what is ahead.

If traditional meditation isn’t something you are comfortable with, find meditation elsewhere. Things like jogging, walking your dog, lifting weights, or even crafts like coloring books can be meditative and will help you clear your mind of stress.

Practice Your Test-Taking

Practice makes perfect. It’s so important to practice your test-taking, not just in subject matter, but also in approach. Perhaps you want to incorporate your meditation practice and breathing into test day, or you just want to make sure you have a routine. Practice your test day so you can feel prepared when the day comes.

For the MCAT specifically, there are a lot of very realistic MCAT Practice Exams that can help you simulate test day. Use these exams to not only test your knowledge but also go through the motions of what your day will look like so you feel fully ready to crush it on test day.

Accept Help

It’s very easy to say, I can handle all of this on my own, and even if you can, accepting help is a great way to lessen the load you are carrying and minimize your stress. This could mean accepting help from a friend, parent, or significant other to handle chores and errands so you have one less thing to worry about.

Accepting help could also mean finding resources to help you tackle the subject matter. Find people who have either done this before or are also going through what you are going through to help you prepare for your test. Examples of this include:

  • Speaking to professors or teachers about their experiences and get tips on how to prepare
  • Getting a tutor. Harrison from Med School Diaries talks about how he works in MCAT Tutoring for MedSchoolCoach and loves helping students overcome their test-taking anxiety.
  • Find a study group that can help you stay on track and can talk to you about all of the things that you are struggling with.
  • Look for resources that work for you. Not every study method works for every person – if you feel like what you have been doing isn’t working, look for new resources to leverage.

Prioritize Yourself

Don’t let your test take over your life. Whether it’s the MCAT, USMLE, COMLEX, or a SHELF exams disrupt your whole life. Prioritize your health and well-being. Take breaks from studying to practice self-care, spend time with loved ones, and reflect.

You should take control of your experience and dictate your own path. If you let test preparation beat you down and stress you out, you will not be doing yourself any favors come test day. If you are feeling the effects of burnout, take some time to get refreshed, it will go a very long way toward the rest of your prep.


Working together to help you achieve your medical school dreams. MedSchoolCoach provides pre-med and medical school admissions consulting services, MCAT and USMLE/COMLEX tutoring, and unique experiences that help students become physicians.

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