Test anxiety is one of the largest determiners of your SAT or ACT grade. If you show up to the test flaky and sure that you are going to fail, there’s a good chance that you’re going to end up with a score much lower than you can achieve. Luckily, just like everything else on a standardized test, you can prepare for test anxiety.
- 1. BE PREPARED For the most part, people struggle with test anxiety because they are think they aren’t good enough to do well. How to combat that? KNOW that you are good enough! This means putting a lot of work in. Take test prep classes, such as the ones offered through Victory Step. Actually do the homework and practice tests that your instructors assign you. The more practice problems you complete, the more confident you will be that you can and will score highly.
- 2. REDUCE PRESSURE There are a thousand factors weighing on the average high school student who signs up for the SAT or ACT. Pressure from your parents, pressure from your teachers and friends, pressure from the colleges who send you emails every single day, trying to get you to go to their program. You want to please everyone, but the thought of doing so can be crippling. Luckily, you followed step one and prepared in advance. This means you have a handle on exactly how you’ll perform – you’ve been keeping up with your progress on practice exams. You should know what score your target schools want, so you can prepare until you are consistently making scores in that range. And you should definitely start early. The SAT and ACT are offered many times a year. Don’t wait until the last minute – if you know that you only have one chance to make a 34, chances are you’re going to crumple under the pressure. Give yourself plenty of time to retake the test. Most students end up taking these tests 2-3 times.
- 3. SLEEP THE NIGHT BEFORE We know what you’re thinking. “Wow, I didn’t know my mom was writing this blog on test anxiety.” She isn’t, just so you know, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t right. You need plenty of sleep the night before the test in order to perform to your highest level. Sleep scientists are discovering that a tired mind is one of the most dangerous things out there – it is the major contributing factor in over a thousand fatal car accidents every year, suspected as at least a supporting factor in many cases of violent crime, and most importantly for us, is proven to lead to impulsiveness. The last thing you want to do is open yourself up for the many different testing biases that can affect you on test day (see our other blogs for details). We know we’re asking you to go to bed early on a Friday night, but this is just one Friday night out of your whole life! We promise it isn’t so bad.
- 4. THINK ABOUT THE PROBLEMS, NOT YOUR FUTURE It’s very tempting once you sit down at your desk to allow your mind to race through all the possibilities of what could happen if you don’t do well on this test. You won’t get into a good school, your friends will move on without you, you’ll have to work at Wendy’s, you’ll get arrested, your parents will kick you out for being a failure…. First of all, probably none of that is going to happen. Second of all, test day is not the time to be thinking about that probably. Test day is the day to be thinking about the problems written down on the page, not the ones you’re making up in your head to avoid the ones on the page. Promise yourself that you can freak out about all those other things just as soon as you finish the test, and then sit down and focus on what is right in front of you.
- 5. TAKE A DEEP BREATH No, but seriously. Get some oxygen into that brain. You can do this. You’ve prepared in advance. You have plenty more opportunities to take this. Your parents aren’t going to kick you out of the house. Repeat that over and over to yourself, and when the instructor says you may begin, pick up your pencil and get to it!