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How to Avoid Test Anxiety on the NPTE

Hey everyone,

With the next NPTE just a short time away, I thought I’d take some time to write a post about how to avoid test anxiety on the NPTE.  I want to make clear that there are numerous possible ways to reduce anxiety, and this is just a short list of things that I have put into practice that really help my students.

I believe that everyone gets anxious about a major test, especially the NPTE.  For many students, this is the last and greatest obstacle before they can become an employed physical therapist.  A little nervousness is to be expected, but be careful not to let it get out of control.  To use a term that I coined, you need to be “appropriately nervous.”  This simply means that you need to feel just nervous enough to motivate you to study—a lot.

I have had a few students in the past that relate to me how they felt “over-confident” when they took the NPTE the first time.  “How hard could it be?” was their attitude.  Unfortunately, these students found out too late that you have to take the NPTE seriously in order to succeed.

Here are a few tips to significantly reduce your anxiety:

  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare. “Prior preparation prevents poor performance” is a quote that a mentor of mine once told me as I was learning Italian.  You cannot draw water from an empty well.
  2. Take care of yourself. The body is an instrument of the mind, requiring constant and consistent nourishment.  On the day of the test, eat a healthy breakfast and skip the caffeine.  Get lots of sleep and for heaven’s sake, don’t try to cram!   I love Michael’s carb-loading strategy–do not do this on test day!

  1. Avoid major life changes. If you’re planning on breaking up with your significant other or changing apartments, try to delay those decisions until after the exam.  Don’t watch scary or stressful movies the night before.
  2. Spend time with your support network. Be with your family and friends that think the world of you.  Remember, you’re the smart one in the family.  They look up to you and are cheering for you no matter the outcome.
  3. Stay positive. As a friend of mine from Scotland says, “Keep a greeen on your cheeen!” (Keep a grin on your chin).   Play a little Rocky music and get pumped up.  You’ve got this!
  4. During the test: Take deep breaths, relax your hands and feet, and give yourself the Will Crane Fist Pump (WCFP) for positive affirmations. If you don’t know something, don’t beat yourself up about it.  Spend more time thinking about other questions that you did know.
  5. After the test: Reward yourself! Go out for ice cream with friends or spend time doing something frivolous.  Give yourself a pat on the back and let it all play out.  Better yet, go render service to someone else and help others be happy.  As my father told me, “Happiness can in seven words be found; Forget yourself and think of others round.”

Check http://www.counselingcenter.illinois.edu/self-help-brochures/academic-difficulties/test-anxiety/ for more information about test anxiety.

I sincerely wish you the best on your NPTE experience.  I’d love to hear how things went.  Please contact me and let me know how it goes.  I also think that sharing experiences helps the whole thing become less daunting for those that come after.

Good luck, and I wish you all the best!