Straight A's but Panics When Taking Tests

  1. Dear Nurse Beth,

    I graduated high school in June of 2016. I started college at a local community college right after starting in August. Ever since August of 2016, I've been working on prerequisites for different nursing programs in the area. I have applied to two schools so far. I have straight A's and even completed my co-
    reqs (which of course we don't even have to complete until after we have been accepted).

    The reason I am so down is
    because I've been denied from the first place I applied to - my dream program. On our entrance test (the TEAS) I scored an 84, and they only took people with an 85 and up. I am a HORRIBLE test taker, I feel like a lot of people say that but seriously I panic when I take huge tests and I go BLANK and get extremely nauseous. Knowing this, I figured getting straight A's would help me in the selection process but I guess not...

    Now I am about to apply o my second-choice program which requires the HESI to get in. I feel hopeless, I'm a great student and I want this more than I've ever wanted anything in my entire life and I fear my HESI score won't be satisfactory, holding me back from getting into a nursing program.

    I cannot help but look at my friend who attends a four-year university in the northern part of my state. She wants to be a pharmacist and got into pharm school recently with a 2.7. At her school as long as you keep a certain GPA like a 2.5 and complete your prerequisites you can get into many of their programs (including nursing). I'm not spiteful of my friend, I'm very happy for her but I can't help but think is that the luxury of being able to go to a
    4 year university? Not taking a huge test and scooting by with a low GPA into the program of your choice? I would go up there and join her but I absolutely could not afford tuition.

    I know comparing myself to others won't make me feel better but I'm just down. Maybe I'm too anxious about taking my HESI but I mean come on. Imagine working so hard for a 4.0 and getting denied because you received an 84 and not an 85 on your test? I'm sorry I know I sound like a huge complainer...I guess I'm just looking for hope or words of encouragement. These tests are a huge factor on getting into programs in my area...and I know an 84 doesn't sound bad but everyone I know with a 3.8-4.0 at least scored a 92 or above so I truly feel my testing anxiety may be holding me back here.

    Like I said I know this isn't really a question I guess I'm just looking for encouragement or advice

    Dear Horrible Test Taker,

    Different schools put different weights on the assessment exams, and with your grades, your outlook is good. Working on your test anxiety is important because there will be tests in school.

    Recently I was working with an RN who had to take her annual Arrhythmia competency. During class, she could speak confidently to all the answers and I thought she'd pass, no problem. She failed the test. She had erased several answers, second guessed herself, and just plain choked. Keep in mind passing this test is required to keep her job, and she had only only one attempt left.

    I encouraged her to focus on what she knew, not to panic study, and not to change her first answers. She definitely knew enough to get 85% (passing grade) and she just needed to remain calm.

    Two days later, she repeated the test. I was hesitant to grade it, expecting disappointment. She got 95%. She said she didn't allow herself to get anxious.

    I wish I had some magic formula for you, but you are obviously smart and I believe you will succeed.

    Best luck to you, future nurse.

    Best wishes,

    Nurse Beth
    Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

    Last edit by tnbutterfly on Aug 16
  2. Visit Nurse Beth profile page

    About Nurse Beth, MSN, RN

    Joined: Mar '07; Posts: 1,574; Likes: 4,733
    Nursing Professional Development Specialist; from CA , US
    Specialty: Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho


  3. by   meanmaryjean
    Google 'test anxiety' and you'll find a wealth of resources. Your school should also have a Student Success Center that can also offer you help.
  4. by   em209
    All nursing programs have different requirements and like Nurse Beth said how much weight those items have depends on that specific program. I did horrible on the TEAS and passed with minimum score! I attributed that to not having been in school for years. However, through grades, and points for volunteering, etc I was selected for the nursing program. Finding a way to deal with test anxiety is very important. School is full of tests and the most important one NCLEX is required to be licensed! You may have your heart set on certain programs but it wouldn't hurt to apply to multiple at one time, increasing your chances of getting into one! I actually moved 4hrs away to attend the program I was accepted to. For tests I recommend not studying the day before and do something relaxing! Best wishes!!!
  5. by   llg
    My advice is not to simply struggle with your test anxiety on your own and hope for best. Get professional help for your problem. It is holding you back in life and you need to take it seriously and address it.

    I agree with meanmaryjean. Your school probably has some sort of Student Success Center of similar resource. Go there and see what they have to offer. If they don't have services to help you, seek a counselor or therapist who specializes in educational/learning issues.

    Good luck to you!
  6. by   Corlionie
    My professor taught us to do breathing exercises before and during tests, which helped a ton. You can also see your counseling office, once accepted, and ask about extra time on tests. You will have to jump through a couple of hoops to get the time, but it helped many students who like you, panicked in tests.
  7. by   PatriciaCifuentes
    I hope you really try to get help for your test anxiety, I highly recommend it. It will not only be beneficial to get into nursing school but for the rest of your professional life. After TEAS or HESI you will have to confront several tests, then NCLEX. orientation or internship evaluations and so on, testing never ends girl. I let text anxiety disrupt my life until I finally took it seriously and learned how to manage it. It has never gone away, but I learned to prepare myself before and during exams. It took psychology sessions, NLP regressions, meditation, self help reading and more. These days I am on a Nurse Practitioner Program and I use YouTube videos with music that helps to concentrate, focus and relieve anxiety and negative thoughts. They are awesome. Take it from someone who used to get physically sick during a test and totally freeze and paralyze when taken them. Nowadays I still get anxious, but I do meditate before my exams, which helps me to focus in answering the questions. Good luck, don't let text anxiety to steal your dreams and interfere with your personal and professional success.
    Last edit by PatriciaCifuentes on Aug 24