As the upcoming NPTE exam is nearing, you may begin to feel anxious or even nervous and that’s ok, you’re not alone here. This is a common feeling from many candidates; however, you can actually start reducing your stress and test anxiety starting today. Rather than worrying about every little detail or how others are telling you to ramp up on your studies, I’m going to focus on the other aspects that play a factor in your scores. In this particular aspect, I’m going to focus on reducing your test anxiety at night. Let’s begin to develop your plan of action below.
Sleep Plan of Action to Reducing Test Anxiety:
Going to bed earlier in order to get enough rest to focus on the NPTE
- Day 1: Going to bed 5 minutes earlier than what you are doing now
- Day 2: Going to bed 10 minutes earlier
- Day 3: Going to bed 15 minutes earlier
- Day 4: Going to bed 20 minutes earlier
- Day 5: Going to bed 25 minutes earlier
- Day 6 til prior to exam day: add 5 minutes until desired time of enough sleep is required for you.
Let’s work backward to figure out when you may need to go to bed and help avoid the “I can’t sleep” the night before syndrome. That last thing you need to do is procrastinate on being proactive in the sleep department, especially the night before (by then it’s too late and hardly anything would calm the nerves and brain down).
Let’s say your exam is at 8 am. Now subtract 15 minutes as a buffer to give you time to park and take a deep breath. We don’t want to start off the NPTE exam by being late (which would cause stress on top of the anxiety – not a great way to start), so, really, you are aiming to be at the Prometric Center by 7:45 am.
You’ll want to be sure you give yourself enough time to get your composure to be ready to tackle this important exam.
If it takes you 30 minutes to get there, you’ll want to leave no later than 7:15 am (although add another 10 minutes for unexpected traffic) so let’s say you leave at 7 am. It’s always better to be early and not have to stress about traffic or any other delays (such as road closures, accidents especially if the weather is not so great).
Unless you are the type that gets up as soon as the alarm goes off, we tend to hit the snooze button. Give yourself enough time to fully wake up and if it takes you an hour to get ready including eating breakfast, you’ll want to aim to get up at 6 am (or even 5:45 am if you keep hitting that snooze).
Before leaving, you’ll want to be sure you have the 2 forms of ID, your letter of authorization, earplugs (if you are going to use them), snacks / beverages and layered clothing.
Now let’s say for your optimal rest, you need 9 hours of sleep (REM included) that means sleeping at 9 pm. But that’s going to sleep and not going to bed, usually, it takes some time to fall asleep (unless you’re lucky in that when you lay down and your head hits the pillow you instantly fall asleep). If you need less or more time, adjust as necessary. The goal is that you are getting the full amount of sleep for the NPTE and that means allowing your body and mind to get the rest it needs.
Don’t shortcut this area as the next day is going to be testing your mind and body similar to being in a marathon or endurance race. Besides, when not getting enough sleep, we tend to be less than ideal to associate with (don’t be that crabby person)!
Wind Down Time
So, this is where you want to begin to wind down prior to this sleep time so that you have enough hours of sleep to function. Let’s say you want 30 minutes to do this and that would mean you’re actually in bed at 8:30 pm. Wow, sounds early doesn’t it? It may be, however, if you wait until the last minute to get yourself to calm down, in the morning, you’ll still wake up tired because the initial time you got into bed, you’re still awake. You may have to be incremental on the winding down time as initially you’ll be restless and toss and turn. Start with at least 5 minutes to help get comfortable in bed and clear your mind from thinking of what ifs, should of, could of and would of (this only increases the test anxiety).
This may take time to train yourself to focus on the present to have a great outcome.
Pre Night Time Routine
This actually means that before winding down, you’ll want to start your night time routine to get yourself ready for bed. This time may vary from a few minutes to an hour or more. For instance, if you need help to calm your mind down by taking a relaxing bath (or reading) for 20 minutes, then you’ll want to add that to your time before you get into bed. The whole goal is to be off any sort of technology to allow your brain to calm down. So, let’s say this means around 8 pm.
You may be rolling your eyes and thinking to yourself “that’s ridiculous” – almost 12 hours before the exam and you want me to start getting ready for bed?! Yes, you’ll want to prepare yourself to be at the optimal and this change in habit will take the rest of time until you take your exam. This amount of time will help ease yourself through the last night. By making this a habit now, you’ll be less stressed and more wide awake than if you don’t start the routine or wait until many do, which means laying there the night before the exam. This is the worst thing to do just before you need to perform well on your license exam.
What if I Don’t Get Enough Sleep?
I’ve seen too many low scores because of the lack of sleep. The effects of losing sleep are lack of focus, lack of understanding the question and choosing the wrong answer. Your confidence goes down because you are having to re-read the information and you may then begin to doubt yourself which increases the test anxiety. This second-guessing and over analyzing are major factors in losing points. This may then lead to you looking at the clock and wondering how many more you can miss and still get the passing score. It’s a downward spiral that you don’t want to risk.
So, take the time now and put down the textbook or study guide and actually get some decent sleep and reduce your test anxiety. You can’t pass when you don’t have enough sleep, so let’s plan and be proactive to get you to avoid losing points on the exam. This plan of action will require for you to do this consistently rather than a one time shot (you can’t expect miracles overnight)!
Let me know your thoughts on this plan of action, what your schedule is and what you do to wind down and stay calm at night.