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11 March, 2024

Combat Test Anxiety

In this article, you will learn various methods to combat, control, and reduce test anxiety for optimal performance on the INBDE.
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Booster Prep

Do you have test anxiety and sleepless nights before a big exam? Do you get “butterflies” in your stomach or start sweating when taking tests? If you answered “yes” to both of the questions above, well, me too! It is entirely normal and simply human nature to feel anxious before a big, important exam like the INBDE. In fact, take heart that having a little bit of test anxiety can be a good thing! It means that the exam is important to you, and your anxiety can also be seen as a source of motivation to adopt good study habits leading up to the big day. In this article, we will address some ways to combat test anxiety to maximize day-of performance including:

  • Study early and consistently
  • Adopt and practice a pre-test routine
  • Practice tuning out your surroundings
  • Reflect on past accomplishments and successes

⏳ Study early and consistently

Everyone has different studying styles and preferences – some people may find themselves reviewing content daily after class, and others may wait until the last minute before an exam to study all the material. One thing to keep in mind is that the INBDE is a cumulative, standardized exam that tests you on the knowledge you learned over many years in dental school. Similar to the SAT/ACT and DAT, it is not an exam that can be crammed for. Rather, it requires diligent preparation over the course of many months. One of the best ways to avoid test day anxiety is to feel prepared, and you can feel that way if you make sure to begin studying early. Make a study schedule that best fits your own learning needs. A method that would work for the INBDE is to first figure out when your ideal test date or month would be. Then, you can work backward to figure out how many weeks or months you hope to study for. With that timeframe in mind, you can now plan out which days or weeks you hope to focus on learning topic X or topic Y, which days you plan to do practice questions, and when you hope to take mock exams. This way, you can make sure you allot enough time for each content area so that when test day comes, you feel as prepared with the content as possible.

📕 Adopt and practice a pre-test routine

Once you are done reviewing the content, one of the most important things to do is familiarize yourself with the test itself. You should know the format of the INBDE and have a sense of how much time you have for each section. Additionally, once you have your INBDE scheduled and know what time your exam will be administered, it is extremely helpful to take mock exams in that same timeframe. For example, if a portion of your exam is scheduled from 8:00AM to 12:30PM, you might find it helpful to take your practice tests from 8:00AM to 12:30PM. This way, you are getting your body acclimated to the long hours it will have to sit for a test, as well as helping to develop your stamina in those particular hours. On the days you plan on taking our mock exam, it can also be extremely helpful to adopt a routine that you plan on doing for the actual INBDE – maybe consider eating the same breakfast you have always eaten before standardized exams. Do this a couple of times for your mock exams, so that you become so familiar with the test day routine that when the actual day comes, it won’t feel as daunting! It will simply feel like yet another practice exam you took on your own.

🎆 Practice tuning out your surroundings

When you take our mock exams at home, you are able to ensure that there are no disturbances. Despite practicing taking the test in a controlled environment, it is inevitable that you won’t be able to predict or prepare for everything that happens on the big day. As someone who gets easily distracted when taking an exam and hearing other people’s typing or clicking, I have had to practice methods to tune out my surroundings. On the day of the exam, there will inevitably be unpredictable sounds, such as mouse clicking, scratchwork writing, sighing, or people getting up to use the bathroom. If you find yourself being easily distracted, make sure to factor in strategies to be able to perform your best on test day despite those disruptions. For example, you may want to try playing white noise while you study for the INBDE so that you begin to filter out sounds in your surroundings as irrelevant background noise.

🏫 Reflect on past accomplishments and successes

You may feel bogged down when studying for the INBDE – it is an exam that requires an extensive and intensive study schedule and when reviewing the content or taking the mock exam, there are bound to be times when you feel frustrated with yourself. You may feel upset that so much of the content escaped you, or you may feel uneasy that your mock exam score is not quite where you want it to be yet. Regardless of how you may feel, it is important to celebrate the highs. Take a moment to sit with your thoughts and reflect on some past accomplishments and successes. Think about your trajectory up until this point and how you succeeded so much in getting where you are. Now, you are preparing to take the INBDE and become one step closer to being a licensed dentist. Reorient yourself using those little positive reminders to stay motivated when everything else inside of you may want to give up.

🎯 Conclusion

While these are only a few examples of ways to help alleviate anxiety, know that everyone may have their own style to combat their test anxiety. Up to this point, you have taken quite a number of standardized tests, so if there have been strategies that have worked particularly well for you in the past, keep doing those things. If there are some things that have been suboptimal, keep an open mind and be willing to try new strategies. Nevertheless, experiencing test anxiety is an entirely normal human experience. It is good to go in expecting to experience some amount of test-related anxiety, but I hope you will be able to find healthy ways to prevent it to the extent that what you feel on test day does not hinder your performance to show how hard you have worked. Good luck, and happy studying!