The Medical College Admissions Test, the MCAT—the gold standard exam North American medical schools use to compare applicants’ knowledge and readiness for medical school rigors.

Getting a high score is essential. But the breadth of the test—the MCAT covers content in biology, chemistry, and other sciences, as well as the ability to think critically—is daunting. Moreover, the test is long. For those with test anxiety, the challenges to achieving a high score may seem impossible. But it is possible using some time-honored strategies.

Come Calm and Prepared
Long before the actual day, test takers should consider why they are pursuing medical school. Is it for prestige? Is it because of family expectations? Or is it a genuine desire to help patients, even if that means countless sacrifices to do so? Understanding motivations is the first step to being calm and prepared. Keep in mind the bigger goal, which is not just acing a single test.

Find a way to acknowledge present accomplishments.
Recognize that studying for the exam is also a learning process. Take note of that knowledge by listing new information. It is fulfilling to see that time and energy have not sunk into just one test.

Stay physically active. Though undoubtedly it takes hours to prepare for the MCAT, exercise the body as well as the mind. Take a bike ride, swim laps, or walk. Be sure to balance mental and physical well-being.

Take a Deep Breath
Taking the MCAT test can certainly produce nervousness, especially if test anxiety has been an issue previously. Stress activates the “flight or fight” response, which means the body is working overtime with rising heart rate, higher blood pressure, and faster breathing.

Therefore, it is a good idea to practice techniques to keep the body in check. One of those techniques is deep breathing.

Deep breaths send a signal to the brain, which informs other parts of the body to remain calm. The practice of deep breathing tames increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and rapid breathing.

Breathing exercises come in many varieties and are not hard to master. One such practice is breathing from the belly. For belly breathing, lie down. Put one hand just below the ribs and the hand on the chest. Breathe out through the nose, letting the stomach push your hand up. Do not move your chest. Pretend to whistle as you breathe out. Do this slowly two or three times. You should feel more relaxed.

Another deep breathing exercise to do the day of the test is called “roll breathing.” In this exercise, the emphasis is on the lungs. Sit upright in a chair and slowly inhale. First, fill the lower lungs with the air and then fill the upper lungs. Hold the breath for a few seconds. Then release the air slowly through the mouth. Take a few seconds to rest and repeat.

Come Rested
“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” No doubt everyone has heard this adage, but it is more than a truism. It is vital to establish and maintain a reasonable sleep schedule as part of the test preparation. Night owls should get used to turning in earlier, well before the actual test day. On the day of the test, plan to wake up at least 30 minutes to an hour before leaving for the test site.

Test anxiety can come from feeling unprepared and out of control. Reduce anxiety by setting up a reasonable study schedule and stick with it. Learn what works and follow the same steps each time. Avoiding inconsistencies goes a long way to feeling prepared and in control. Think about what the actual test day will be like. If possible, drive to the test site ahead of time.

On the day of the test, have all materials (ID, snacks, water) ready to go. Obviously, getting a good night’s sleep is paramount but if anxiety makes it impossible, try relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation. Put electronics away at least an hour before going to sleep. If all else fails, get out of bed, set a timer for five or 10 minutes, and just let your worries rush over you. Once the time is up, try to put the anxiety aside.

Make the Most of Your Time
There are roughly 20 minutes (the tutorial and examinee agreement) between entering the exam center and the actual exam. Medical school insiders say this is an ideal time to jot down some last-minute notes, any useful equations, and any mnemonics (one test taker reports using the mnemonic “pure as gold” to remember guanine and adenine are purines). Having these items on the tutorial sheet can improve test scores and, most importantly, boost confidence.

Take a Bow
Test anxiety can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to the MCAT. Feeling afraid or overwhelmed is normal. But minimizing those feelings is key to doing well. Practice these strategies until they become second nature. Then you can focus on the test material, not the anxiety.

Author's Bio: 

I am Anna Clark a pro-level blogger with years of experience in writing for multiple industries. I have extensive knowledge of Food, Fitness, Healthcare, business, fashion, and many other popular niches. I have post graduated in arts and have a keen interest in traveling.