Test Anxiety Strategies for PA School Entrance Exams

entrance exam tips test anxiety strategies tips for success Jan 18, 2024


The journey to becoming a physician assistant (PA) involves passing various entrance exams that assess the academic readiness and suitability of aspiring students. These entrance exams, such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), can be anxiety-inducing for many individuals, even those with exceptional academic abilities. Test anxiety can hinder performance, but with the right strategies, aspiring PAs can overcome it and perform at their best on these crucial exams. In this article, we will explore the concept of test anxiety, its impact on PA school entrance exams, and provide effective strategies to help aspiring PAs conquer test anxiety and excel in their exams. 

Understanding Test Anxiety: 

Test anxiety is a common phenomenon characterized by feelings of fear, nervousness, and stress before, during, or after an examination. It can manifest in physical symptoms such as rapid heart rate, sweating, headaches, and difficulty breathing. Test anxiety can affect individuals of all ages and academic levels, including aspiring PAs preparing for their PA school entrance exams. 

The Impact of Test Anxiety on PA School Entrance Exams: 

Test anxiety can have a significant impact on an individual's performance on PA school entrance exams. When experiencing test anxiety, the body's stress response is activated, which can impair cognitive function and memory retrieval. As a result, individuals may struggle to concentrate, recall information, and perform to the best of their abilities. 

For aspiring PAs, the pressure to achieve high scores on entrance exams is heightened, as these scores can significantly influence their acceptance into competitive PA programs. Test anxiety can lead to underperformance, potentially hindering their chances of gaining admission to their desired programs. 

Strategies to Overcome Test Anxiety: 

Understand the Exam Format and Content:

Familiarity with the exam format and content can boost confidence and reduce anxiety. Obtain study materials or practice exams specific to your PA school entrance exam, such as the GRE or MCAT, and simulate real exam conditions as you practice. Becoming comfortable with the exam structure can help you approach the actual test with more confidence. 

Develop a Comprehensive Study Plan:

Create a structured study plan that covers all the relevant topics and allows sufficient time for review and practice. Avoid last-minute cramming, as it can exacerbate test anxiety. Breaking down your study sessions into manageable chunks can help you retain information effectively and reduce stress. 

Practice Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques:

Incorporate mindfulness and relaxation techniques into your daily routine. Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation can help calm the mind and body, reducing overall anxiety levels. 

Visualize Success:

Positive visualization can be a powerful tool to alleviate test anxiety. Before the exam, take a few minutes to visualize yourself confidently answering questions and performing at your best. This mental rehearsal can instill a sense of self-assurance and calmness. 

Stay Physically Active

Regular physical activity has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. Engage in activities you enjoy, such as walking, jogging, yoga, or dancing, to release tension and improve overall well-being. 

Get Adequate Rest:

Ensure you get enough sleep in the days leading up to the exam. Fatigue can exacerbate test anxiety and hinder cognitive function. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night to promote optimal brain function and concentration. 

Practice Time Management:

Time management is crucial during PA school entrance exams. Practice pacing yourself during practice exams to ensure you complete all sections within the allocated time. This will prevent feelings of rushing and stress during the actual exam. 

Implement Relaxation Techniques During the Exam:

During the exam, use relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, to calm your nerves and maintain focus. Take short breaks when needed, close your eyes for a few seconds, and take deep breaths to reset your mind. 

Don't Focus on Perfection:

Avoid striving for absolute perfection on every question. Focus on answering to the best of your ability and move on to the next question without dwelling on previous answers. 

Seek Professional Help if Needed:

If test anxiety significantly impairs your performance despite trying these strategies, consider seeking support from a therapist or counselor who specializes in test anxiety. They can provide personalized coping techniques and support to address specific challenges. 


Test anxiety is a common challenge faced by many aspiring PAs preparing for their PA school entrance exams. However, with the right strategies and a proactive approach, test anxiety can be managed effectively. Understand the exam format and content, develop a comprehensive study plan, and incorporate mindfulness and relaxation techniques into your routine. Visualize success and stay physically active to reduce stress levels. Prioritize adequate rest and practice time management during practice exams to optimize performance. During the actual exam, implement relaxation techniques to stay calm and focused. Remember that aiming for perfection is unrealistic; focus on doing your best on each question and move forward without dwelling on mistakes. 

Conquering test anxiety is crucial to perform at your best during PA school entrance exams and increase your chances of gaining admission to your desired PA program. For personalized guidance and support in overcoming test anxiety and preparing for PA school entrance exams, consider seeking assistance from a qualified physician assistant admissions coach. With determination, perseverance, and effective strategies, aspiring PAs can conquer test anxiety and confidently pursue their dream of becoming compassionate and skilled healthcare providers.

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