Managing USMLE Step 2 Test Anxiety

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Do you feel completely confident walking into your USMLE™ Step 2 exam? Don’t worry - you’re not alone. Test anxiety for medical students is very common, and although the jitters can be a boost for your motivation to study, high levels of stress can interfere with your test performance. Looking for some tips to make sure you are ready on the big day? Tim Dang, a 4th year medical student at Stanford University School of Medicine, provides us with some tips on how to best prepare for the Step 2 exam. 

Make a study schedule and stick to it.

There are many resources available for creating study plans. One resource I like to use is Cram Fighter. They specialize in creating personalized study schedules for medical students. When devising your study plan, keep in mind what works best for you (e.g., best time(s) of the day to study, breaks, gym time, etc.). Creating a detailed plan will help you feel more confident that you aren’t leaving anything out that is vital for performing well on your exam. 

Think of the USMLE Step 2 exam as an opportunity, not an obstacle.

If you can confidently say that you couldn’t have worked any harder to succeed on the Step 2 exam, then you will definitely have a chance to excel on the day of your test. Replace the thought of, ‘Wow, this test is massive!’ with the idea of, ‘This exam is a collection of objective questions, and I will answer them one by one to the best of my ability.’ 

Emulate the USMLE Step 2 testing environment.

To score well on the Step 2 exam, it is important to complete enough practice tests, especially since you want to be confident on testing day. Step 2 students should aim to complete at least two NBMEs or one full-length practice test before the real thing (most med student just smash two NBME exams together back-to-back). Check out AMBOSS Exam Mode, which includes over 2000 questions that are equally as hard or harder than the ones you will face on the Step 2 exam. AMBOSS Exam Mode replicates the Step 2 testing environment, helping you stay calm under pressure and maximize your score. 

Practice against the clock.

If you really want to challenge yourself, let at least 5 minutes pass before starting your block so that you're forced to work more quickly and answer the last few questions with limited time. If a similar scenario happens on the real testing day, you will be well-prepared to handle this otherwise stressful situation.

Plan for your testing day well in advance. 

Familiarize yourself with the location in which you will be taking your exam. Also, know what you need to bring with you on the day of your exam. Look over the rules regarding your exam day (e.g., breaks, what time you will need to report, etc.). Leaving these details to the last minute might produce more test anxiety. 

Check out AMBOSS Exam Mode, which includes over 2000 questions that are equally as hard or harder than the ones you will face on the Step 2 exam.
— Tim Dang, Stanford Medical Student

While anxiety is difficult to avoid before the Step 2 exam, implementing these 5 tips from an expert will help you conquer your test anxiety. Get started preparing for your Step 2 exam today. Click below to access AMBOSS Exam Mode. 


The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE™) is a joint program of the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB®) and National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME®).