Beat the MCAT Blues: Dealing with depression and anxiety

Posted by The PhD Perspective on 12/12/12 10:37 AM

describe the imageIt’s likely that you’ve never prepared as deeply or intensely for an exam before, as you will preparing for the MCAT. Its common to feel anxiety, and even depression during the days leading up to the exam. In our post, we’ll give you some tips on how to cope and maintain your mental health through this difficult time.

The MCAT is a completely different beast, unlike any other exam you’ve probably encountered over the course of your academic career

It can often feel like, medical school admissions is the key to your future happiness, and if you don’t perform better than everyone else, you’ve failed. Here are a few ways for you to deal with that depression/anxiety that can arise:

• Give yourself the time to succeed

Preparation time for the MCAT varies from person to person, but often requires a few months. Begin your preparations sooner rather than later.  Your MCAT prep courses and MCAT tutors will help you learn the content and skills you need to ace this thiest.  But, its not only about content with the MCAT, but learning to play the game. Significant preparation (requiring significant amounts of practice) yields insights into the design of the test. This insight is key in obtaining your maximum score. In addition, if you are still taking classes, be sure to schedule a light load of classes for that semester if you can.

• Mental/Physical breaks are important

Preparing for the MCAT is a marathon not a sprint. Burn out and overstudying is common among students and can affect your scores as you prepare. Preparation is important, and your MCAT prep course will arm you with the tools you need to master the exam. But, equally important is a clear mind. So, in the course of your studying, find the time for the things you love to do. If you love to bike, run, swim, cook, read, or watch mindless television-DO THOSE THINGS. Allow yourself to enjoy your life, even if you are preparing for this monstrous exam. MEDITATE. Just a few minutes a day can help clear your mind, and help you achieve success! EXERCISE is important too. Those of us who have taken the exam can remember all of the nervous energy that can build up inside of your body. This can be a HUGE block to concentration. Spending 30 minutes each day exercising (lifting weights, running, or even just talking a walk) can burn off some of that nervous energy.

• Relax, Relax, Relax

Pre-med students often put TOO MUCH (in my opinion) significance into the result of this exam. Remember, this is just another exam. Yes, it determines what your chances are of getting into medical school. But, a low score doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It’s just a number, and you’ve put effort into preparing. The best thing you can do for yourself is to BREATHE, BE CONFIDENT, and TRY YOUR BEST. Knowing that whatever the result of this exam, you can achieve your goals, will help you be successful on test day.

Anxiety is normal, but don’t let it get the best of you. A clear mind, and confidence are the best tools to help you master the MCAT, and achieve success. Good Luck!

Tags: test anxiety, MCAT