The biggest obstacle to becoming a nurse for me was myself. Specifically, my test anxiety. NO matter what I did before an exam I never felt prepared until I learned how to control my anxiety.

I studied harder and longer than my friends and somehow I never ended up getting as good of test scores as they did. It was heartbreaking to work so hard learning material only to pass by a small margin or not pass at all.

Students with test anxiety will experience rushes of adrenaline before and throughout their test. Adrenaline blocks the brain from thinking and triggers a flight/fight response.

NCLEX Question

In reviewing labs for a patient, the nurse can see the diabetic patient’s blood sugars have been controlled by the A1C being less than:

A. 8

B. 7

C. 6

D. 5

I knew the correct answer was (B) but I was nervous and I psyched myself out. I told myself the answer had to be (A) because no matter what the answer was, I could argue with my instructors later that (A) may not have been the “Rightest” answer but it was still right.

Create a Calendar to Study

This sounds obvious but putting it into practice is makes a difference. Each test should have an Exam Blueprint, use it to plan your study time. If you’re being tested on three different content areas, break down each day.

Here is an example on how to use a blueprint:

Day 1.       Cover simple anatomy and physiology.

Day 2-4     Variations of Health

Day 5.       Complications of Health

Spend 20-30 minutes reading your notes. For the rest of your time reading your notes as test questions.

Pick what works for you in organizing your time. I studied once in the morning for about 50 minutes and once in the afternoon or evening for about 50-90 minutes.

Consistent Caffeine Intake


Caffeine is no substitute for sleep. Cramming the night before an exam may seem like a good idea but it rarely is.  Get 7-8 hours of sleep before an exam if possible.

Caffeine is a stimulant, if your body is used to getting one cup each morning, don’t change that on a test day.

Drink Extra Water

The benefits of hydration are amazing, especially in your brain. According to a recent article from Harvard, A well-hydrated brain can:

  • Improving concentration and cognition
  • Helping to balance your mood and emotions
  • Maintaining memory function
  • Increasing blood flow and oxygen to your brain
  • Preventing and relieving headaches
  • Healthy weight

Who doesn’t need this during a test?

Pick a Theme Song

Have a theme sound and listen to it before walking into a test.

Two really great reasons.

First, who doesn’t like rocking out to their favorite music?

Second, music will remind your brain of a happier time. We can learn how to control and recover from these adrenaline bursts of anxiety by tricking your brain into testing not being stressed. Not focusing on the test exclusively before the exam gives your brain a break from stress.

I still do this before going to work most days.

These are just a few ideas on how to combat test anxiety.

Getting stressed over an exam is normal but don’t let it bring you down. Overcoming test anxiety is not easy but it is possible. Remember, I went from failing the NCLEX in 75 questions to passing the NCLEX in 75 questions. It can be done. 

Use these tips and build up your confidence in taking exams. If you still need help, click on the services tab and contact me for studying and test-taking support.