Tips for Overcoming Test Anxiety
June 11, 2019
working and going back to school, manage work and school, caring for yourself



Learn about the exam. It's is a perfectly legitimate question to ask your professor how the exam will be set up. Will questions be fill-in-the blank or multiple choice? Any essay questions? How long is the exam? How will different parts of the exam be scored? Having this information can remove unwanted nerve-inducing surprises on exam day. 

Practice basic academic discipline. Attend class. Take notes. Read your textbook. Complete and turn in all assignments on time. Nothing conquers exam nerves like knowing your subject and knowing it well!

Make a list of your academic progress and add to it every time you accomplish a study task. Watch this list grow throughout the semester. It is a visual reminder that you are learning what you need to know—reviewing it can help reduce test nerves when you see what you have accomplished.  

If you don’t keep up your learning progress, you can expect more test nerves and poorer grades on those exams. Day-in/day-out academic work is your foundation for good exam experiences.

Banish negative thoughts. Do any of these kind of thoughts run through your mind? 
“I’m not good enough.” “If I don’t pass this test, I’m a failure.” “There’s no way I can learn everything that will be on the test.”  

It’s time to replace those messages with new ones. 

Try this: When one of the negative, defeating thoughts about an exam creeps in, jot it down on a piece of paper. Then write a positive thought next to it. Practice saying them when the negative thoughts creep into your mind.

“I can do this!” “I don’t have to get a A+, I just have to pass!  I know the material and studied hard, so I will be prepared for this test.”


Get sleep the night before. If you are well-rested before exam day you will have the mental capacity to focus on your test and manage your nerves about it.

Be sure to eat. You can’t think effectively if you haven’t eaten. The brain needs balanced nutrition to work at its optimum. Be sure to have some protein, whole grain carbs, a little fat, and a little sugar source (fresh fruit is great) so your mind is sharp, and your energy is sustained.

Exercise a little. You don’t need a full workout, but a short brisk walk or dancing to some favorite music are a couple of easy ways to get your circulation going and oxygen into your system. A little exercise will also help release the tension that can trigger more test nerves.

Do a pre-test “Pep Rally”. You know how athletes psych themselves up before a game? The coach gives them a talk to rev them up. They shake out the nerves and hype up by chanting and jumping. You can do a little of this yourself. If there are other students in your class, you can try it together.

If that’s too out there for you, before you leave for your exam, you can give yourself a pep talk in your car or your room. Maybe even record a “You’ve got this and you’re going to have a great exam” message and play it back to yourself. 


Stop and focus before you start. Remind yourself to take on the questions one at a time.

Scan the exam to see how it is structured before you begin.

Smile. Smiling triggers a powerful chemical reaction in the brain that lifts your mood, lowers stress, heart rate and blood pressure. (Try this out as you read this. Feel what a smile can do!)

Breathe. If you start to feel the nerves growing, breathe deeply to relax and regain your focus.

Read directions carefully. Be sure you understand them before beginning. 

Read questions carefully, too, so you know exactly what they are asking.

Prioritize. If you come to a question that you don’t know and your anxiety rises, skip forward and find questions you do know. Go back later to the questions you’ve skipped and try them again. Be careful to understand exactly what they are asking. More than likely, they will make more sense the second or third time through.

Congratulate yourself on your effort. If you prepared well, and put some of these tactics to use, your next test experience should be better. You’ll continue to build on that success in the future.

Closing Thoughts

We hope that you find these approaches help you overcome test anxiety when it arises. 

Not all test anxiety is easily managed. If your test anxiety symptoms are severe and you are incapacitated by them, please reach out for professional help. Your school counselor will have advice and resources to help. 

Working and Going Back to School—Caring for Yourself
Dec 18, 2018
working and going back to school, manage work and school, caring for yourself
A thousand-mile journey is done one step at a time, as the saying goes. Managing your work, school and personal life during this time will be lived one day at a time. You will be developing, using and mastering new life skills. You will be learning and growing. Never forget that.

Here are some suggestions to help you keep yourself mentally, emotionally and physically healthy during your quest for your CNA CERTIFICATE OR college diploma—especially important if you work full-time and are raising a family.

Take Care of Your Health

Give your body what it needs to get you through everything you are doing in your life.

Get some regular exercise—a quick walk and some stretching for just 20 minutes can really help clear your head before work or studying. Exercise oxygenates the brain (perfect before studying!) and also reduces muscle tension. Your sleep will also improve with regular exercise. 

Eat healthy! You’ll be on-the-go and meal planning may be tough. Make use of the easily prepared foods that grocery stores now offer—make them the healthy versions. 

Carry healthy snacks with you so that you aren’t reaching for candy or sodas which will give you a temporary lift, but make you crash later. You’re in this for the long haul and you’ll want the stamina to make it.

Make time for play and rest. Even plan them into your schedule. 

Find an Accountability Partner

What is an accountability partner? It’s someone who will hold you accountable! 

This person could be a friend, work colleague, classmate or family member. If considering a spouse or best friend, consider whether your relationship can shift for the needs of being accountable. 

Their responsibility is to check in on you and help you stay on track with your studies and work. Your responsibility to them to keep them up-to-date about your classes. Be honest with them about your progress or lack-there-of. They are your cheerleader and can help you work through problems. They should provide you tough love if need be.  

When things get overwhelming (and they will) your accountability partner can listen to your gripes and remind you of the goal—your degree. A half hour over coffee could be just what you need to refresh yourself, so you can get back to the work of getting through your classes.

Nurture Your Relationships

This is your life and you want it filled with love and laughter, don’t you? 

Be intentional about showing affection. Enjoy those you love. Practice ‘being in the moment’ as they say. A snuggle on the couch, talking and listening to each other…it’s all about your life. You may think that Chapter 5 must be mastered tonight or else, but a little time spent with family nurtures your spirit—something that lasts past this semester.  

Really set aside school between semesters. Rest and deepen your relationships when you're off from school.

If your relationships are strained because of the toll your work/school load is taking on you, seek help. A school counselor, student support group, or your house of faith leader are good resources for you.  

Try to Limit Media

If you work and go to school, you are saturated with information coming at you to be learned and acted on. You are mentally engaged for many hours a day. When you come home, you have family to care for. All of that demands your attention and focus. 

It can be tempting to escape frequently into FaceBook, other social media, streaming television, et al. However, spending a lot of time with media can spread you too thin mentally. There are studies that indicate the brain’s circadian rhythms are disturbed by smartphone and computer screens. This disrupts the brain’s sleep mechanism. 

It’s a good idea to stop with the screens a couple of hours before bedtime whenever possible. If you study into the night, switch to a textbook, listen audio files or podcasts about your subject. Read over hand written notes.  

Make your social media time a treat for yourself when you’ve done your studying. Trying to study and text friends at the same time probably means you won’t get very high-quality results with the studying.  

Create Rituals

How you start your day and end it can create peace of mind and focus. 

At the beginning of the day, give yourself a few minutes to think and prepare for the day ahead. Anticipate the things that will require the most of you. You’ve got this!  

In the evening, do the same to slow your mind down. Give yourself credit for a day well-lived or let go of the things that were troublesome. Tomorrow is a new day.  

Adapt and Apply What You Know 

You wear many hats when you are pursuing your degree, working, caring for your family and managing day-to-day responsibilities. 

Take a look at the steps or structures you follow to complete your tasks at work. Can you adapt them to planning your schoolwork or home chores? If you get your job done by following a series of tasks, you can break down that term paper into a series of tasks. Each completed step will lead naturally into the next and make everything manageable. It also lets you build from success to success!

Share Your Success

Were you able to have a good study session at home because your kids were quiet and didn’t disrupt you? Thank them and let them know how they helped you. 

Did a co-worker swap a shift when you had a class final? Let them know that you passed, and they helped make it possible.

Learn Your Limits

This may be the toughest lesson to learn. For most people, it’s a lifelong challenge if they choose to take it on.

We live in a society that praises the workaholic. People boast about only sleeping a few hours a night because they are working so much. If someone didn’t achieve a goal, the attitude is usually that they didn’t try hard enough. You may be measuring yourself against this mindset and your self-esteem suffers. This is a signal that you may have reached your limit and need to release the pressure.  

There may come a class that you just can’t pass, and the best choice may be to drop it and work it into a timeframe later on when you can better tackle it. 

Life happens. You may need to take a semester off if it is in the best interest of you and your family. You’re not a failure for doing so. You’ve simply reached your limit and choose to put your efforts where they are really needed. Don’t think it’s a setback. It’s just a pause. When things settle down, you can pick up your classwork again. 

That thousand-mile journey is done one step at a time. You can always get back on that road again.  

Working and Going Back to School—Managing It All
Dec 6, 2018
managing work and school, going back to school. work and school,
A growing number of working adults are Continuing Their Education to advance their careers. With Certificates/degrees in hand, their incomes will increase, and they can expect greater job security with more opportunities for promotions.

In our previous post, CNA NursingPrep shared ideas to help working adults research, plan and choose the right program to earn their advance their education. 

In this post, WE will share some practical advice you can use while working, studying and managing your family life.  

Introduce Yourself

Meet with an advisor as soon as you enroll in school. Be sure to check in regularly, at least every semester, to review your progress, and get advice they may have.
Be sure to meet your instructors. Tell them you are balancing work, family and school. Get their office hours and find out alternatives to talking with them if you can’t meet them during those times. They want you to succeed and should be happy to help you.
Meet your classmates. See if there are others like yourself who work and go to school. You can help each other even if it’s just a few minutes of chatting before class.

Calendar Everything

You’ve enrolled in school and know when classes begin. Your calendar will be full, and it might be your best friend until you graduate.

As soon as you get information about your class schedule, put it all in your calendar. Consider using an electronic calendar that links to important family members so they can check your schedule, too. Exams, mid-terms, due dates for important assignments and finals should all be in there.

Are you taking online courses that you access on your own schedule? Put that on your calendar too. The flexibility of taking online courses is a big plus, but you’ll have to work out a schedule to complete your studies if it’s all up to you. You should follow the schedule advised by the instructor of the course and block out times to study just as if you were headed to a classroom.

Create Your Space

Have a designated study space. Keep supplies handy. You’ll save a lot of time if you don’t have to gather items every time you want to study.

Have a good light source in your study space. Keep earplugs/earphones handy to block out family noise. You’ll want a place that is quiet and puts you in an alert learning mindset. Studying in bed, for example, may not be the best option if you find yourself slipping into sleep mode!

Set boundaries with your family when you study at home. During your study time, they can help by not interrupting you and turning down the noise level of their activities. How you and your family reach agreement on this issue can build respect and deepen your bonds with each other.

Learn How to Study

It may have been years since you ‘hit the books’, so you’ll want to brush up on your study techniques. If your school has a learning resource or student success center, you can get valuable information about how to study.

You can also search online with the ‘How to Study’ and pick up both new and tried-and-true tips.

Tuck In Time to Study

Craft some flashcards or notes that you can carry with you. Download videos or podcasts about what you’re studying. When a few minutes of time opens during your day, use your notes/flashcards or listen to the recordings to capture a few minutes of learning time.

If possible, pad time around every class. Get there early and stay a few minutes late to prepare and review.


At work, give your school schedule to your manager. Let them know when your midterms and final exams are scheduled. It will give your manager plenty of time to accommodate those days. If you must, find someone to swap work shifts with you, do so as soon as possible and be sure to tell your manager of your plans. Regularly check to be sure that you are all on the same page.

Keep communication open with your family. There are going to be stressful days for everyone but talking about things can keep relationships strong.
Remember, you won’t be in school forever and getting your diploma is going to be worth it!

Keep Track of All Education Expenses

It’s a good idea to keep receipts of all your education related expenses.
You never know when an opportunity for some reimbursement may become available to you. If your job requires you to earn a degree or additional licenses, there is probably a tuition reimbursement policy in place.
Keep a folder in your study space; you can label and put the receipts in as you get them. If ever you need them, you’ll be glad you set them aside and kept them in one place!

Celebrate and Evaluate

At the end of every semester, do something to celebrate. You’re a step closer to your degree and should be proud of yourself.

Also, review how the semester went. See what worked for you and plan on that again. For things that didn’t work so well, think about how to do them differently next time. As you grow and learn, your approach to reaching your goals can improve and adapt.

Please join CNA NursingPrep's next post which will address maintaining your personal life while going to school and working.

Working and Going Back to School—Getting Started
Nov 25, 2018
how to work and go back to school, how to start going back to school,
You hear about it everywhere—the benefits advancing your education—higher wages, more career opportunities and better job security. Of course, you want those things. Perhaps your employer has told you they think you should get a certificate or degree.

However, there is so much to decide—how to afford it and how to fit course work into your work, family and home schedule.
we have a few tips for the early stages of your planning. (We also have tips to help you in every step. You’ll want to read about those in upcoming posts.)

Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Determine Your Goal

Are you in a job that you like and you would like to earn a certificate, degree or license to take you to the next level?

If so, you will want to learn what program fits you. It may be obvious, but not always. Talk to your managers and find out how they managed to fit school in their schedule. You may have several options to consider for your path.

If you want to move into a career unrelated to your current job, talk to people doing that work and research it online. If you have a goal and plan when you look for schools you can evaluate them better because you’ll know what to look for.

Make Records of All Your Experience and Qualifications

If you have a certificate or license for your job, that’s a start. You’ll want your high school diploma or GED in hand and any college classes you’ve already taken. Have you passed any CLEP, DSST or UExcel exams? Get those records.

Also, and this is important, record any additional training you have. Did your job train you for additional responsibilities? Find your certificate of completion or ask your employer for a record. Do you have side hustles for extra income that you trained for? Get that information.

Why gather all your experience?

Because many colleges review a person’s total body of experience and often grant credit for it. You may have already have earned college credit through your work and not even know it!

Research Programs and Schools

If you want to stay local, visit the campuses in person. College admissions officers will be happy to help. Working adults are often reliable and conscientious students—the school sees you as an asset to the student body! If you are a parent, find out what parent friendly services the campus has, like on-campus childcare.

Definitely find out what programs have a large selection of online courses. These will remove the obligation of being in class and you can plan them into your schedule on your own terms.

Any school you consider, review their credit-by-exam policies. CBEs such as CLEP or DSST exams give you credit by passing them. Wouldn’t you rather pass a 90 minute exam rather than take a semester long course? It will save you both time and money to earn credit this way. Then you can focus on the core classes for your degree. 

Do you want to work for your study online? When you research online programs, be sure that the schools are regionally accredited and that they will accept your previous credits.

Keep Track of Your Research

Keep track of everything you’re learning in a notebook or online documents.

It’s a big commitment of time, hard work and money to advance your education. Knowing as much as you can before enrolling in a program should eliminate the kind of surprises that could derail you later. Your time is precious and you don’t want to repeat any of this work because you didn’t keep notes early on.


Tell the vital people in your life that you want to advance your education. You’ll want their support from the beginning.

Tell your employer or manager about your plans. They may have valuable advice to help you. There may be education benefits available through your work to help pay for program and your manager could help you apply for them. It is also good for them to know your plans because they’ll know that adjustments to your schedule might have to be made. Bringing them in early shows that you are respectful of their responsibilities and enhances your reputation with them.

Tell your family your plans. There will be changes to their lives when you take on the additional responsibility of school. With plenty of time to prepare before you start classes, you and your loved ones will find the changes easier to adapt to.

Ready to Start?

We agree that these are quite a few suggestions just to get started on your college path. Incorporating school into your already busy life takes a lot of planning. The more you know, the better you can prepare for the changes that will happen.

Our next post will offer practical suggestions once you’re ready to start your college courses.

Note Taking-Best Strategies
Nov 6, 2018
how to take notes, note taking, take notes, best way to take notes,
Walk into any college classroom and there they are--student faces lit up by laptop screens. A few students still have notebooks, pens, pencils and a handful of highlighters. When they all leave class, who retains more of the professor's lecture?
Taking good notes is arguably the most important component to your academic success. Writing notes is, in a way, a form of learning. They help you solidify your knowledge.
There are advocates for both typed and handwritten note-taking. Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages.  But, which is better—old school or new school? Typing or writing?   Let’s find out and weigh the pros and cons of each.

Your Computer—Pros
Fast talking professor? They’re no match for the speed of your fingers on the keyboard. You probably type much faster than you write, and your notes will be more complete than those with pen/paper.  Typing is a benefit if your lectures are dense with sequential and organized information.  

Your notes are backed up on “The Cloud”.  Use a web-based word processor like Google Docs, and your notes are always safe and secure.  When you use your notes to study later, the ‘search’ function will quickly reference any topic you need from all of those pages.  Sharing notes is easy. If a friend misses class, you’ve got their back and can quickly send them your notes.

Your Computer—Cons
Typing your lecture word-for-word may not be as helpful as you think. Your mind will be focused on typing the words, sure, but not engaged in understanding the concepts you learn by actively listening.  Computers freeze or glitch at the worst of times—like the last lecture before the semester final. Lost notes mean lost time. 

The most common liability for laptops in the lecture hall or your study time is—online distraction. You get to class 10 minutes early so you scroll through social media. You check out the cute puppy videos. Before you know it, the lecture on chapter 12 is half over. Chapter 12—the one you didn’t understand when you read it. You missed the lecture because you were engaged online.

Your Paper Notebook—Pros
If typing note produces lectures verbatim, how can hand writing notes be a benefit?  Well, writing by hand creates a cognitive and physical connection to the course material more than typing does.  To write notes by hand, you must listen closely to your professor and extract the most important and necessary parts of their lecture. A focused mind writes focused notes, leading to learning permanence. 

Pen/paper notes give immediate flexibility to relate pieces of information. If the lecture refers to something explained earlier, write a note and draw an arrow back to the earlier reference. Does the professor give vocal emphasis to something?  You know it's important. Mark your notes accordingly. When you study later, you'll study the topic thoroughly, because you knew it was important to the professor.

Writing by hand allows you to accommodate your unique thought processes. Doodles in the margins can become quick graphs to fill with information. If an image pops in your head during an ‘Ah-Ha!’ moment, sketch it…that tree with an elephant in the branches will remind you of the concept that jelled for you. Others might not get it, but you will.
And, those highlighter pens? Yes, your notes look like a piece of art. But, if you use the same color to highlight a topic every time its in your notes, you can quickly relate them to each other and remember those layers of information.

Your Paper Notebook—Cons
Remember the fast-talking professor? Writing can slow you down.  It may be hard to listen, choose what to write, and then get it on paper. Hand cramps can occur during a full day of classes. If your lectures cover a lot of information very quickly, typing may be better for you.

Some people have poor handwriting. There’s no point in taking notes if you can’t read them after the fact. Deciphering your notes later is lost time learning. If legibility is your issue, it might be best to type your notes.

Paper note takers also have distractions during class. If your mind wanders, you may have a page full of doodles instead of valuable notes. It’s always going be tough to focus if the lecture is delivered in a monotone or on a subject you find tedious and boring. 
Which one wins?

We've outlined pros and cons of both note taking options. You may decide to try both--typing for some classes and writing for others. Both have their place.
Learning Styles - How Do You Learn Best?
Nov 2, 2018
what a learning style?, what are learning styles?, what's my learning style?, visual learner, auditor/verbal learner, kinesthetic learner, solitary learner
You have a unique learning style.  Do you know what yours is?  Understanding how you learn helps you retain information more effectively.
Are you a visual learner? Do you learn best through pictures, diagrams, graphs, and videos?  If you are a visual learner you may be talented at art, visual planning and organization, utilization of physical space, and general navigation. Because you are a visual learner you can absorb and utilize a great deal of information through resources like YouTube, maps, diagrams, and visual mind maps.

Do you prefer to listen to information?  Then you may be an aural learner.  You use auditory, musical, and rhythmic associations to retain information. Due to this, you may learn best from spoken word lectures, audiobooks, and podcasts.  As a result, you make use rhyming, rhythm, and jingles to remember concepts and principles.

Are you a reader?  Verbal/linguistic learners like words in either spoken, or written form, and can be avid readers and writers, therefore, learners will often write and rewrite notes in order to achieve permanence through repetition. Mnemonic devices are also very popular amongst linguistic learners, as you can easily recognize and cling to the linguistic patterns in these devices.

Do you have a hard time sitting still and want to physically touch objects?  Then you may be a physical/kinesthetic learner.  If you can touch, move, rearrange, or manipulate an object you will remember it better.  As a result, you may find that the educational system is not a good fit because you have a hard time sitting still. In fact, you may absorb ideas and knowledge when you are moving, touching, and manipulating your environment. 

As a physical learner, you may struggle to focus during the initial learning stages but find your way when exploring the physical applications of what you're learning. You are a perfect example of “learning by doing.”
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