4 Tips to Overcome USMLE and COMLEX Test Anxiety

UnstressSweaty palms, weak knees, unsettled stomach and racing thoughts. Sound familiar? Of course it does. You’re thinking about your USMLE or COMLEX exam. You’ve spent years preparing for your boards with countless hours in classes and labs. Now it’s time for your final push to get the high-yield topics under your belt so you can show the exam who’s boss!

Anxiety is something many of you have probably experienced throughout high school, undergrad years and especially medical school. The good news is that there are ways to combat anxiety and Doctors In Training is here to help you. We have compiled some helpful tips on how to manage exam anxiety. We want you to be ready to conquer your exam with peace of mind, knowing that you’ve done everything possible to be successful.


Don’t try to learn everything at once. It’s important to create a study plan to keep you accountable and avoid procrastination. Attack the material in manageable chunks to ensure you absorb the information. You can leave a week or two toward the  end of your dedicated study period to go back and review any topics that may need extra attention.


Your body needs rest, relaxation and exercise. During stressful times it can be hard to sleep, but your mind and body need time to relax and rejuvenate. Going for a walk, stretching, weight lifting, or playing basketball or racquetball with friends can be fun ways to get some exercise. Many rec centers hold fitness classes that last 30 minutes to an hour – what a great opportunity to get out frustrations and get your mind off of the exam! Most importantly, give yourself some decompression time to help wind down and fall asleep.


It’s important to drink lots of water. An occasional cup of coffee is fine, but energy drinks and sugar-laden sodas will cause you to “crash”. It’s also important to eat balanced meals with protein, leafy greens and fruits. A healthy body promotes a healthy mind. Purchasing and/or preparing all of your meals at the start of the week could leave you with one less task to juggle during your study time


If you feel the signs of stress such as headaches, upset stomach, lack of sleep, frustration or any of the other signs listed here, then take a break. If your symptoms become a distraction and you find yourself unable to focus, there are counselors available on campus who can help you through the stressful times.

It’s important to not put too much pressure on yourself. Take a step back and remember why you set out on this journey and know that you’re one step closer to your goal. It’s very easy to get caught up in the frenzy but if you set a schedule, treat your body right and prepare yourself, test day will not be so daunting. Trust in your preparation and hard work that you have put forth to get to test day. Before you walk out the door, give yourself a pep talk and a pat on the back and go attack that exam!

About DIT Advising Team

The Doctors In Training Student Advising Team offers many advisory services including the following: customizing individual study plans for USMLE Step 1/ COMLEX Level 1 or USMLE Step 2 CK/ COMLEX Level 2, advising students with respect to combating everyday stress and test anxiety and preparing students for the residency application process.
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