Frustrated - but not down?

Hi everyone,

So, I am a 29 year old woman and I started my post bacc at a University known for their rigorous sciences. The first set of classes were a series of accelerated chem classes (30 weeks of chemistry in 9, what was I thinking?!).

I made it through the first quarter, but by the second I was physically run into the ground, got pretty sick near the end of it (had to run out of lab to puke a few times) and was having full blown panic attacks during the tests. The tests were insanely difficult and my confidence was shattered. It was a vicious cycle - if you slept normally you weren’t studying enough, but if you studied enough you were sleeping 4 hours or less per night. It was nuts.

I knew if I took the final in the state I was in, failure was likely. I had to address my test anxiety and my health, and I couldn’t do that with 24 hours left until the test. I had to take a W in the lecture AND the lab because they were a pair - I had to set my pride aside in this situation. I was studying like a madman but I couldn’t keep up with the pace, and I was physically spent.

I plan on taking Chem again this fall at a normal pace, and physics. I will get the classes done on a 2 year plan.

Will the W’s from this summer destroy me? How much will the hinder me? If I can get it done right the second time around, will they matter?

Also, in terms of dealing with severe test anxiety - how does one deal with that? I would almost have blackouts of sheer panic during the test.

I know part of it was not being confident in the material I was being tested on (often we only had 24 hours to study it before we were tested), but there was an intense fear of failure that I’ve never experienced before. I don’t know how to deal with this. And I will strangle anyone else that tells me to, “Just Relax!”

I think you already nailed your solution. If you are very prepared, you almost WANT to be tested, as in, “Ask me ANYthing…I can answer it!” I remember some times where I wanted to sort of ‘show off’ because I knew I was that prepared. I have also wanted to delay tests, or take a sick day because I knew I wasn’t prepared. Have you ever felt that you looked forward to a test, perhaps in a subject that you were very confident with?

KNOWing that you KNOW everything for the test is my solution to not being nervous about it. It looks like the course you took didn’t allow you to know as much as you needed to. By switching, you may find that you have more time to prepare.

It made me think of what med school will be like if you have test anxiety. I think it will at least be of a comparable intensity for you as that accelerated course…maybe times ten. It would be worth considering whether you need to pick up some more efficient study skills so that you can absorb information better and faster. If you find that not enough time to study was the root of the issue, then it would be necessary to remedy this before med school.

See how this next round of courses goes. If the pace now allows you to know all that you need to know for the test, I think your anxiety will be minimal, if not gone. If you still are having problems, I would look to improve study methods. I saw some suggestions here and there on SDN and here about books that offer help with studying and/or memorization.

I’m not sure about test anxiety that comes even when you know that you’re prepared; I can’t really give a decent suggestion for that one. Maybe the more tests you take and annihilate, the more the anxiety fades because you see that you do great each time. I wonder if you have a fear of failure, or a fear of not being perfect? What defines failure for you? Shooting for a 100% every time and not accepting anything less could be the reason for such intense anxiety.

My university has a success advisor (or something similar in title) to help figure out how to attack your courses and succeed. Maybe it’s just your advisor at your university who can help, but it’s worth a shot to try every avenue available to excel.

Let me just say (before you have a panic attack) that I did the 30 weeks of Chem with lab in 9 weeks and med school is NOT time 10. But it is very similar in intensity, and there is MORE stuff to learn on a number of different subjects.

When you interview at schools find out if they do “block” scheduling" - how many courses are you doing at once? with Block scheduling it is typically only about 3 (4 if its a DO school, with OMT in there). Second, how frequently do they test (more frequently is better because you have to prep less material for each test and the tests are proportionally worth less individually, which decreases YOUR anxiety on each one as you can recover from a bad test.

Those two things can help you pick a program that will be less overwhelming and dramatically affect your quality of life.

Then, you DO have to look for a number of different study strategies, and adapt quickly. I’d keep a whiteboard with what needed to be reviewed prior to the next test. I put “Mon, Tues” etc next to what I needed to get done each day to be there by test day. When I saw I was getting behind, immediately, I had to revise my strategy for covering the material. Sometimes you can’t do all the textbook reading --maybe the case studies are the most important. Sometimes instead of MAKING study notes, rereading your lecture notes twice and highlighting them might get you there and be quicker. Study groups where different members summarize different sections and you all share resources can save your but.

Finally - the anxiety. There is a type of therapy using directed eye movements that is sometimes still used for PTSD and which I have known to be used with great effectiveness for test anxiety. See if your school has some referrals for learning centers or counseling centers that might be able to help you with this.

Best of luck!


ps - re the withdrawals. They will likely NOT sink you if you succeed after them. Address them briefly about health issues causing your withdrawel and move on. Establish your character as an overcomer!

Hi amalthea, One of my best friends had horrible test anxiety in both Ug and medical school. Both schools learning centers worked with him and he was able to take his exams in the learning centers as well as learned techniques to deal with his anxiety. This all in all helped him more than prescribed Beta Blockers in the past and we all now call him Dr!

Ask for help with your anxiety, with a professional at your university or Physicians office. There are solutions available if you seek them out. Best of luck!

CelticDoc2016, OMSII

Thanks everyone for their input.

I think a huge part of it is feeling very prepared for tests - I have felt, “I am going to ROCK this test!” before and I’ve been excited to take it because I knew it was going to go well.

I never felt prepared in this situation (having very little time to study complex topics), and this particular class focused in areas that I am weaker in (math, specifically), whereas I am better at memorizing and visuals.

I stacked the cards so high against myself and I didn’t even realize it. I’m kicking myself right now. I’d rather not resort to pharmaceuticals to resolve the anxiety, and I am going to contact my school’s student center next week to learn how to cope with this.