Test Anxiety!

Being a PhD Candidate, I am no stranger to exams, tests, or other ways to measure teaching and learning.  In seeking my professional counselor’s license in North Carolina and my national counseling certificate, I had to take a very long, comprehensive exam that covered the major areas of studies for counseling professionals. Although that was now 10 years ago, I still recall those days (and weeks!) filled with anxiety surrounding my study schedule and the exam itself.  Add to that the anxiety over the implications of failing that exam. Plus, it was expensive.

Today, I sit on the sidelines.  Tomorrow, my beloved partner, who is a dedicated medical student, will take his Step One medical exam. In translation, this is a comprehensive exam that tests on the entire content of his two years in medical school thus far.  Similar to what I went through, however, it has added bonus and layers of pressure.  Not passing this exam, holds him back from beginning his third year of medical school. The third year allows the students to have rotations in hospital and other medical settings to experience the basic areas of medicine. It lets them start their supervised practice of medicine. Yep, a lot of pressure to pass.

The extra bonus that carries huge implications are the scoring results of the exam.  Results dictate both the immediate future, as well as potential career paths in medicine.  Wait,…what?!  Yes,the higher your scores, the more opportunities you have potential for and the lower the score the fewer. Talk about pressure!  So if anyone has dreams and aspirations of being a surgeon or neurologist, they must have an awesome score.  If the score is not as high, then plan B or even plan C may be their course of action.

As a person who does go to the doctor, I appreciate the fact that doctors and specialists need to know their stuff.  As a mental health care professional, I have concerns for those who have major text anxiety, may not test well, or are not able to manage their stress in the weeks/days leading up to the test.  What does this do for their mental health and well-being with so much pressure on the performance at this one moment in time?

My heart goes out to all of these medical students.  Not only do you have to pass, but you need to do as well as possible to keep your opportunities open.

All that said, I have seen the hours and hours of time invested in study questions, drills, and pouring over materials with microscopic vision. I have seen the zombie-like looks for those over-study sessions and next day ‘study hangovers’.  I have even seen a post-exam ‘vacant’ look that comes in the days afterward.  Soon, this will be over for this year’s lot.  It can’t happen fast enough, in my opinion.

I have the utmost confidence that my husband will do well. I am his biggest fan and cheerleader.  Also, I know the heart he has to help others.  He has studied long and hard.  He only has a few more short hours to review (and pray!) and then rest before his clock starts tomorrow for the exam. My thoughts, prayers, and heart go with him.

Then the 4-5 weeks of waiting for the results begins…


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