My alarm went off at 6 AM and as I struggled to get out of bed the terrifying reality came upon me…it’s test day.
I reflected on what my calm-the-hell-down mechanisms were. To be honest, I couldn’t remember. I had felt anxious for other big exams like the MCAT or thesis dissertations but somehow nothing felt like this. Starting this journey felt like a clean slate for me, and the pressure of not wanting to mess it up from the jump is pretty daunting. Not to mention, I made the error of comparing myself to others (and I’ll reiterate, just because people say things confidently doesn’t mean that they actually know what they’re talking about).
All I gotta say is, choose your study group wisely. And this goes for any degree. In college it was all about scoping who the smart people in class were and trying to pick their brain and hoping that they’d help you out. Here…it’s every man for himself. And the competitiveness is something you can physically feel when you walk in the room. If you know of a school that’s not like this, please tell me where it is – I’ll gladly transfer. I am very fortunate because I found a core group of 2 other people who had strengths where I had weaknesses (they were pretty much masters of biochemistry and anatomy, while I was their inside scoop on histology).
I took it slow the morning of the exam, I didn’t have to be in class until 8:30 AM and it took me 5 minutes max to walk there. I had a cup of coffee (God I miss starbucks…I hope you all have delicious pumpkin spice lattes for me!) and my roommate made us some grilled cheese sandwiches – although I could barely eat them, I was so nervous.
So what did I do? Get pumped up on the Kanye West pandora station of course. Music always helps, even if you feel like nothing can bring you up. I just started repeating mantras to myself but nothing was working. That was until I got a text message from my best friend who works at Penn State:
“you got this. you’re supposed to be there”
It just clicked for me. She’s right. I AM supposed to be here, and I won’t let an exam get in the way of my ambition. You get what you worked for – and I was ready.
I walked in that exam like nothing short of a badass mofo. I sat down in my seat and looked at my computer (all of our exams or online) and was ready to dominate. Some girls were crying outside, others were muttering to themselves as if they were in an insane asylum (which I guess, we kind of are) but I just sat there in dead silence. The worst thing I was about to do was think about all of the information I had been absorbing for the last 3 weeks – I’m a person who frequently second guesses answers that I put down and information that I know is right. I wasn’t going to let my test taking anxiety get the best of me.
Opening up the first question, biochemistry – shit. I read the question stem, something about someone with metabolic alkalosis, something about asking me to find out what a consequence is. Oh my god, what is going on? It’s as if all information left my mind. Okay, maybe the next question will be better. Nope. Nope. Nope. I felt the swagger imparted on me by Kanye West was slowly fading and the little anxious beast within me was coming out. But then, the world threw me a bone. I got a question I absolutely knew the answer to, and then another one, and then another one. Before I knew it I completed the entire exam with good confidence and even laughed to myself when I went back to those early questions and it immediately clicked.
I truly am my own worst enemy, but no amount of motivational pinterest quotes was going to get me out of that exam alive, I had to just be like “hey guess what, I know my shit. And I’m going to prove to you that I do.”
Upside of an electronic exam is that after I took a well deserved lunch break and got back to my room, I saw a notification that our scores had already been released. I was literally shaking when I clicked on my browser to open it up. I passed! All three. And with points to spare. I was so relieved and even though this grade overall doesn’t really make a dent in my final grade, it made a lasting impression on my confidence.
I got this. I’m supposed to be here.
Now for the sprint to midterms.