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How to Overcome USMLE Pre-Exam Anxiety

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USMLE Anxiety

Pre-exam anxiety, nervousness and worry are common before the USMLE. In fact, studies show that over 1 in 5 second-year med school students have test anxiety ranging from moderate to extremely high.

Anxious about Taking the USMLE? These 10 Effective Tips Will Help!

We all experience anxiety, and the same solution doesn’t work for everyone. Different personality types deal with stress differently, but the key is to avoid putting too much pressure on yourself.

Here’s what you should do before your USMLE exams:


1. Practice Daily Meditation –
 Not only does meditation help with overcoming anxiety of any kind, it can also boost concentration and focus. During USMLE prep, pick a distraction-free spot and relax your mind for at least 10 minutes every day.

2. Mimic the Test Environment – Recreating test conditions helps you become more comfortable with the actual exam. Incorporate full-length and NBME practice tests in your USMLE study plan, and use a timer to stay on track.

3. Get the Right Nutrition – Your body and mind need the right fuel to help you cope with long study sessions and control anxiety. Eat healthy, balanced meals with plenty of fresh fruits, veggies and protein, and make sure you stay hydrated.

4. Avoid Ignoring Stress – Frequent headaches, insomnia, mood swings or digestive problems are common among students who experience USMLE pre-exam anxiety. Instead of ignoring these signals, take a break or seek treatment for anxiety.

5. Take Frequent Breaks – Medical students tend to push themselves hard, but your body and mind need rest and relaxation to function effectively. Make sure you get enough sleep and exercise, and take time off for social activities too!

Here are some ways to reduce test anxiety on exam day:

1. Adopt a Positive Mindset – Think of USMLE exams as an opportunity to prove yourself, rather than a burden or obstacle in the path of your medical career. Treat the exam as a series of questions that it’s your job to answer.

2. Stop and Gather Yourself – If your mind starts wandering or filling with negative thoughts, e.g. what happens if you don’t do well, how you should have studied more, etc., make a conscious effort to stop and regain control.

3. Focus on Deep Breathing – Taking deep breaths is an effective way to get USMLE test anxiety under control. Inhale and exhale slowly for 5 seconds each, completely focusing on the movement of air in and out of your body.

4. Visualize a STOP Sign – If you’re feeling anxious or stressed during the exam, take a moment to center yourself. Close your eyes and visualize a giant STOP sign in your head. Then, take a breath and think about something happy.

5. Tense & Relax Your Muscles – Progressive muscle relaxation is a great way to beat stress during USMLE exams. Tense and then relax every muscle in your body, starting head and progressing down to your toes.

To learn how to prepare for USMLE, cope with USMLE pre-exam anxiety and improve your test performance, contact New York Clinical Skills Prep now!

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