Massage student with test anxiety preparing to take the MBLEx

How To Overcome Test Anxiety And Pass The Massage Licensing Exam

If you experience test anxiety and are worried about passing the massage exam, you’re not alone. Most massage school students and graduates confess to having some test anxiety when it comes to taking an important exam like the MBLEx.

Sometimes a little test anxiety can be a good thing. It can sharpen your mind and help focus your attention. But when test anxiety is so bad that it impairs testing performance, it becomes a real problem. It can even lead to failing the massage exam.

Symptoms that a student may experience when having test anxiety include: rapid heart rate, shallow breathing, sweating, cold hands, dry mouth, mind going blank, light headedness and maybe nausea. These are symptoms of the sympathetic nervous system kicking into high gear during a stressful event.

This post is to help massage therapists preparing for the MBLEx in 2023 to learn how to overcome test anxiety and be confident when they take the massage exam.

Why we have test anxiety

Test anxiety is a form of performance anxiety. It can occur when you are put on the spot if you have fear that your inadequacies (real or perceived) may be exposed.

Feeling unprepared results in test anxiety for most people. Sometimes we genuinely are unprepared, like when new procrastinated on studying then crammed for the test the night before. Other times it may just be that we lack confidence in our own abilities.

My experience with test anxiety came more from practical exams rather than written exams. It was particularly challenging in physical therapy school. We had a lot of practical exams including mock patient evaluations and performing skills tests. They required us to adapt to surprise scenarios and think on our feet.

It was kind of nerve wracking for most of us, especially when there was a lot at stake (like not getting kicked out of school). The fear of real or perceived consequences can definitely lead to test anxiety.

This brings us to perspective. If you perceive that failing the massage exam will be extremely painful and terrible, then you will almost certainly have test anxiety.

Some massage students perceive that failing the massage exam means that they aren’t smart enough or even capable of passing it. When in fact they may just need a new study strategy and to improve their test taking skills just a little.

In reality, failing the massage exam will be frustrating. It will set you back a month or two and cost another $215, but it is not the end of the world. You can always retake the exam.

According to the FSMTB, around 70% of people who take the MBLEx for the first time pass it. Of those who have to retake the exam, there is a 33% pass rate. To increase your chance of passing the massage exam, beside to check out out Ultimate Guide To Passing The MBLEx.

Take the MBLEx practice exams to decrease test anxiety

The more times you do something, the more skillful and comfortable you will be when performing that task. Massage students preparing to take the massage exam should take as many full-length practice exams as possible.

“The key to self-confidence is preparation.”

Practicing taking simulated exams can be a form of exposure therapy. This is a treatment technique used in cognitive-behavioral treatment programs to overcome anxiety related to specific phobias. It is used to overcome everything from agoraphobia to test anxiety to fear of snakes.

The theory is that the more you are exposed to the source of your anxiety, the less anxiety or distress it will cause.

So when you take practice exams, try to create an atmosphere that closely resembles the testing atmosphere at a Pearson Vue test center, which is where you will take the massage exam.

Clear off your desk, remove all distractions, turn your phone off, and put all your books away. Wear what you will wear on test day and don’t eat during your practice exam (water will be available). It is ideal to take the timed full-length practice exams at the same time of day that you plan on taking the MBLEx.

Be sure to review your practice exam results after taking a short break. Spend the rest of the day if needed to dive into topics where you missed questions on. It is important to review your performance on practice tests to identify areas of weakness.

Waiting until the last minute will cause anyone to have more anxiety. So start taking practice exams and quizzes early in your study plan. Use an organized study plan that allows plenty of time to prepare for each content area of the MBLEx. Find out if you’re ready to take the massage exam.

Create your success morning routine

Establishing a morning routine is something that most successful people do. It can also help you to perform better when you take the massage exam. Schedule a morning exam time if possible. Your brain and body will be the most rested early in the day. Most people’s ability to focus decreases throughout the day.

Keep your morning routine consistent and focused in the 7 days leading up to taking the MBLEx. This dress rehearsal will build your confidence for test day, because you will feel like you’ve done it many times before.

Here are a few suggestions for a success morning routine:

  • Get up at the same time every day.
  • Do some physical activity like going for a walk or run. This will relax your nerves and get blood flowing to your brain. Do some stretches or yoga exercises for about 15 minutes.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast and get hydrated. Eat about 2 hours before taking your practice massage exams and before the actual MBLEx. Limit sugar intake and don’t go overboard on the caffeine. Stay away from processed foods, soft drinks and other junk food during the days leading up to the test.
  • Plan ahead of time what information you will review right before the test. A few pages of notes should be sufficient. Don’t plan on cramming on the morning of the test, or even the night before. Instead, spend the evening before your massage exam doing something relaxing, like getting a massage. Cramming will just cause brain fatigue and more anxiety. It may make you feel like you aren’t prepared, even if you really are.
  • Mental rehearsal can improve physical performance. During the week before your test, spend a few minutes every morning visualizing yourself arriving at the test site calm and ready, walking in confidently, sitting at the computer testing desk and feeling relaxed, taking deep breaths as you read the questions and correctly answer each question. Spend 5 minutes per day visualizing this. Be as vivid as possible.

“Nothing in the affairs of men is worthy of great anxiety.”


Plan your personal relaxation strategy for the MBLEx

Prepare some personal relaxation strategies ahead of time. These are self-care strategies you can do right before the massage exam, and while you are taking it. Practice these ahead of time and often to make them part of your routine. Use them before and during MBLEx practice exams to make it a habit.

  1. Breathing exercises. Breathe in slowly in for 8 seconds, pause, then exhale slowly out for 8 seconds, and pause. Repeat this for at least 2-3 minutes. Keep your shoulder and neck muscles relaxed. This is a useful exercise to do when sitting in the waiting area before your exam.
  2. Use warm water on your hands and face. This can be very relaxing. That’s why spas and flight attendants offer steamed towels.
  3. Use progressive muscle relaxation techniques. To do this, tense a muscle group for 5 seconds as you inhale. Then relax the muscle group for 5 seconds as you exhale. Then relax for 10 seconds. Work your way through each major muscle group from your head to your feet.
  4. Posture awareness. How you hold yourself affects how you feel in that moment. If you sit up straight like you do when you are confident, then you will feel more confident. Sitting slumped will have the opposite effect. Body language not only communicates our emotions to others, but to our own subconscious.
  5. Use only positive self-talk. Be careful not to psyche yourself out with negative inner monolog.
  6. Visualize your own success. Create vivid mental images that are relaxing and fill you with confidence. You could visualize yourself sitting on a warm sunny beach, with your feet in the warm sand, seeing yourself smiling, knowing that you are now a licensed massage therapist. Make it as vivid as possible.

Additional test taking strategies to overcome test anxiety on MBLEx test day

Here are a few additional test-taking strategies that will help your performance when taking the massage exam:

  • Allocate your time well. You have a little over 1 minute to answer each question. You will likely answer many of them in less than 30 seconds, which leaves extra time for the more difficult questions.
  • If you have no idea about a question, try to eliminate possible answers that are most likely to be wrong. Then take your best guess and move on.
  • Use memorization techniques to help with recall, even if you’re nervous.
  • Dress nice on test day if that makes you feel more confident.

This post has presented some ideas that you may find useful to decrease test anxiety about taking the MBLEx.

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