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How To Overcome Exam Anxiety

Regardless of how many exams you've taken in your life, everyone feels a little anxious before a major exam like USMLE or NCLEX.

During exams, some people just feel butterflies in their stomachs, while others get so anxious they forget the information they have studied.

Many brilliant students suffer from exam anxiety, restricting them from getting their dream scores in competitive exams. Therefore, we will discuss some simple and effective ways you can reduce your anxiety during exams.

1. Take a full-length practice test before the actual exam

Though cliche, it is very accurate that practice makes a person perfect. Without a practice test, you may find USMLE or NCLEX quite intimidating, leading to a lot of anxiety. By solving multiple practice tests, you not only get to know the exam but also understand how prepared you are.

Your anxiety will be reduced by gaining familiarity with the questions and time limit of the exams by taking practice tests. Additionally, when you consistently get a good score in your practice exams, you feel more confident on the exam date.

To get high-quality question banks and full-length practice exams, you can check out ArcherReview courses for USMLE and NCLEX.

2. Get proper sleep the night before:

As much as you think studying till the last minute is a good idea, it is not! Getting proper rest and sleep is as essential to your exam performance as learning.

Being sleep-deprived affects your memory, making it more challenging to recall information during the exam and making you more anxious. Therefore, it is recommended that you should get at least 7-9 hours of sleep every day.

So if you are thinking of re-reading just one more chapter at 12 AM the day before the exam, then just keep the book down and sleep.

3. Don't take up too much caffeine:

For some of us, morning coffee is a must! However, you should cut back on coffee on exam day if you suffer from anxiety. Again, this is because caffeine causes anxiety.

As the exam approaches, students consume more caffeine. But despite giving you an energy boost after reading for 5 hours straight, caffeine reduces the quality of your sleep.

Hence caffeine can cause you anxiety in both direct and indirect ways. So when your exam is near, it is best to cut back on coffee. This will most definitely help you reduce your exam anxiety.

4. Reach the exam location before the time

Your anxiety can increase if you are late for the exam. And suppose you already deal with exam-related anxiety. In that case, this can exaggerate your feeling of nervousness and make you underperform in your exam.

To avoid this, you can visit your exam centre a day prior and get to know the location and time you need to reach there. This will give you the right idea of your wake-up and departure time to reach the exam location on time. This will prevent you from a lot of stress and anxiety.

5. Try breathing exercises:

Breathing exercises are a great way of relieving stress and anxiety. These exercises are great because you can perform them anywhere. So regardless of feeling anxious before or during the exam, you can use breathing techniques to make yourself feel relaxed.

One method for doing this is: Inhale through your nose and out through the mouth while expanding your belly instead of your chest.

6. Answer the simple questions first:

While solving the USMLE or NCLEX, you may encounter a few questions to which you just don't know the answer. Getting stuck on these questions can take up a lot of your time and can cause you to feel anxious during exams.

Hence you should aim to answer all the simple questions first. This will help you get into the flow of solving questions and boost your confidence. And once you have that confidence boost, you can return to tackling those tough questions.

7. Develop a strategy for answering questions

In the exams, there will always be a few questions you either don't understand or do not know the answers to. Solving those questions can be pretty stressful. You can reduce this stress by learning a strategy to answer questions you don't know the answer to.

To do this, you can practice a lot of questions and create an effective strategy that works for you, or you can ask your tutor for help in making such a strategy.


If you deal with extreme exam anxiety, it is okay! However, we know how important it is for you to get a good score in your exam. Hence, we highly encourage you to follow these tips to control your exam anxiety and get a good score.

And suppose you need additional help preparing for the USMLE or NCLEX exams. In that case, you can check out ArcherReview courses for USMLE and NCLEX.