Pressure, pressure: coping with nerves and stress on the actual HPAT test day.
Having done HPAT practice exam, after practice exam, after practice exam, most HPAT candidates will be raring to go come July 31st. Whilst HPAT preparation is key to your HPAT success, it is not the only factor that will affect your HPAT performance on the actual HPAT test day. Being able to cope with the nerves and anxiety that inevitably appear on the day of the HPAT exam will be the key strength that will help you out-perform your fellow HPAT candidates. Perhaps the only thing separating two equally intelligent HPAT candidates may be their ability to handle stress on the HPAT test day. Whilst it is impossible to tell how you, as an individual, will fair on Saturday 1 February 2014, it is possible to learn how to cope with the nerves that you may experience just prior to, and during, the HPAT exam.
Firstly, nerves aren't necessarily a bad thing! In fact, the adrenaline that is released as a result of 'nervousness' can increase your performance on test day. An increase in heart rate and consequently, oxygen available to all your brain, can enhance a HPAT candidate's performance due to the arousal of the central nervous system. It can also help you overcome a fear of failure by kicking in that 'fight or flight' reaction allowing you to focus solely on passing and succeeding in the HPAT rather than what will happen afterwards.
Further, you don't need to be able to get rid of your nerves completely to be able to perform at your best on the HPAT. Rather than trying to pretend they don't exist, acknowledge their existence and use them to your advantage. The pace that at which you will answer those HPAT questions should significantly increase due to this increase in adrenaline.
Another key aspect of handling HPAT pressure is learning to overcome negative thoughts that can appear on HPAT test day. Below we've outlined some simple self-talk strategies to help you stay positive and calm so you can sit the HPAT in the best state of mind possible.
Common negative thoughts before the HPAT exam and how to overcome them:
|when half of you says...||say...|
|1. You can't do it.||Yes I can! The HPAT is not an impossible exam. The chances of failing the HPAT are extremely slim because I have sufficiently prepared for the HPAT.|
|2. You haven't done enough HPAT study.||Yes I have! I did what I could in the spare time available to me. Most students sitting the HPAT also have to cope with the stress and workload of their other final year high-school subjects, just the same as me.|
|3. You're not good enough.||Yes I am! No-one is born as a doctor. All medical professionals have to start somewhere and this is just the first step for me.|
|4. You always crack under pressure.||This is simply untrue. I have sat many exams in the past. This isn't my first one, and I know that I have performed when I needed to. The pressure that I'm feeling is the same as everyone else therefore, I am at no disadvantage to others sitting the HPAT exam.|
Most of all, it is important to remember that you need to be your own biggest supporter. You have to sit the HPAT test solo so make sure the crowd in your head is cheering for you not yelling out abuse!
For a more detailed discussion of how you should approach different question types on the HPAT exam including sample HPAT questions and answers, please see our blog series HPAT test tactics and preparation by MedEntry HPAT preparation.