Is A High-Stakes Test Filling You With Stressful Anticipation and Dread?

Are you a graduate student who feels overwhelming anxiety when faced with tests? Have you been frantically studying for a specific, career-defining exam, such as the Bar, CRNA boards, USMLE or a licensure exam? Do you feel as though your entire future hinges on a particular exam? Maybe you have already failed this exam once or twice. Or, perhaps you have always struggled with test taking and now feel certain that you’ll bomb and important exam and won’t be able to succeed. Do you wish that you could cope with your fear, study effectively and stop getting in your own way?

Struggling with test anxiety can be a frustrating, disheartening and exhausting experience. You might experience panic attacks while studying or feel your mind go blank when you try practice tests. Perhaps you feel guilty or on-edge when you are doing anything but studying. Maybe you have dedicated many years to your education and amassed heavy student loans and can’t bear the thought of failing. You may have put your life on hold, delaying relationships, children or a steady income, and feel immense pressure to avoid disappointing the loved ones who have supported you in your career goals. You might feel desperate and despairing. Perhaps you are tired of battling with your nerves when you know you have the knowledge to succeed.

Test Anxiety in Adults Is Very Common

It is very normal to feel anxious or worried before a test, especially a big one. High- stakes exams can be nerve-wracking. If you are studying law, medicine or another rigorous field, you are probably also facing a great deal of pressure from your professors and peers. Some academic programs hold very high performance standards and foster rigorous, competitive environments. It can be tempting to compare your studying habits or your experience with that of your colleagues. Focusing on an exam can also lead you to neglect other aspects of their lives, such as exercise or sleep, which can heighten anxiety and take a toll on your overall well-being.

While some nervousness is expected before an exam, even moderate test anxiety can hinder your ability to perform to your full potential. It may seem as though the test is consuming every ounce of your mental energy, but you still aren’t making progress. If you have failed this exam before, panic at the thought of a test or have a history of freezing when you have an exam in front of you, it may be time to seek professional help.

Performance Coaching for Test Anxiety Can Help You Feel Confident and Prepared

Regardless of the exam you are preparing for, performance coaching can help you overcome the mental blocks that are getting in your way. Just like the performance psychology that helps athletes get their heads in the game, our approach can help you feel ready to excel. In solution-focused, customized sessions, one of our experienced and skilled coaches can help you develop the skills you need to cope with test anxiety and perform at your very best.

If you are struggling with overwhelming test anxiety, you may be stuck in old patterns that are not working for you. For example, you may procrastinate studying or fail to get enough sleep before an exam. Together, you and your therapist can identify bad habits, explore solution-based strategies and figure out the best approach for you. Our group of skilled coaches takes a three-pronged approach to addressing test anxiety in adults. In sessions, we will utilize evidence-based clinical techniques to help you cope with anxiety in the moment, develop an effective studying strategy, and feel clear-headed and focused on test day.

Coaching for test anxiety in adults is highly focused, and we will not spend a great deal of time on other psychological issues you may be struggling with. Instead, you will develop and practice techniques to cope with the specific worries that arise while studying or taking a test. We recommend that you begin working with us at least eight weeks before the exam. Breaking down old habits, reframing your mindset about the exam and building new performance strategies takes time, dedication and a willingness to change.

If you are ready to prove that you know the material, we can help. Our expert team has helped many people shift out of ineffective patterns and bad habits, improve test performance and reduce anxiety at the same time. Our targeted approach can help you feel equipped to succeed.

You may believe that coaching can help you cope with test anxiety in adults, but still have questions or concerns...

I don’t have time for anything but studying.

The time you spend in coaching sessions will help you study more effectively. Without objective guidance, you may not be able to break out of the patterns that you are stuck in – and those patterns clearly have not been helping you. Because we understand that you have a hectic life, we offer flexible scheduling, including evening and weekend sessions. If you are worried about time spent commuting, we can transition into phone sessions after our first couple of meetings. Depending on the date of the test, we can also space out sessions to accommodate your needs. Please keep in mind that truly changing habits requires time, and last minute coaching is unlikely to be effective. Even if your test is months and months away, if you already feel nervous and on-edge, it is not too soon to begin sessions.

Is this therapy? That won’t work.

This is not general therapy for anxiety disorders. Although we will offer you support and guidance, we will not address other topics or delve into your complete history. This is a targeted approach to help you reduce your test anxiety and improve studying and test-taking skills.

I don’t want to think about my test anxiety. Why can’t I deal with this on my own?

There is no need to feel ashamed about seeking help. While it may seem as though your peers are doing just fine while you’re struggling, this is not the case. Test anxiety in adults is very common. So many intelligent, successful people have experienced periods of panic and helplessness. Moderate to sever anxiety rarely goes away on its own, and as test day approaches, it is likely to grow worse. The sooner you begin to learn new coping strategies, the more confident and prepared you will feel as you walk into your exam.

Dr. Kelly Romirowsky is the founder and director of Philadelphia Assessment & Counseling, LLC. She specializes in performance coaching for students and professionals. You don’t have to dread any exam. We invite you to call for a free, 15-minute phone consultation* with a performance coach. We are happy to answer any questions you have about test anxiety in adults and our practice.

*all new clients must complete a consultation before being seen for an appointment