Gearing Up for Standardized Tests
The Admittedly Team
The advent of fall means many things: the beginning of football season, pumpkin spice lattes, crisp breezes, trees sporting vibrant leaves, and of course, the first wave of standardized tests. For seniors, this signifies the last chance to improve scores before application deadlines hit. For juniors, it’s the start of a year filled with number 2 pencils, scratch paper, and interminable test booklets. To help ease the anxiety, here are some test taking tips.
Before the test
1. Switch your study activities.
Consider mixing in different elements from other learning styles such as sound, movement, and visuals. Seek out practice exams or other test prep items. It is also beneficial to understand how the test is scored before taking it.
2. Get a good night of sleep.
A full night of rest will allow you to wake up feeling refreshed, invigorated, and focused. Additionally, these tests are a bit of a marathon clocking in at around four hours. You’ll need the energy to get yourself through. Plus, if you walk into the test site groggy, you’re likely to make careless mistakes.
3. Eat a nutritious breakfast.
By replenishing your body’s nutrients, you will have the fuel to maintain concentration throughout the exam. Save the muffins and donuts for after the test, and reach for something rich in protein. Never underestimate the impact of a healthy meal!
4. Don't cram the night before.
Logging hours of study and test prep is a good thing. However, we advise against cramming the night before the big exam. You’re more likely to work yourself into a ball of stress and anxiety than actually have a productive study session. Instead, put the books away and kick back. Trust that all the hard work you put forth before this evening was enough.
5. Make sure you arrive early.
Leave yourself plenty of time to get to the test center. You don’t need to increase your anxiety tenfold by frantically hunting for parking. Arriving early will give you time to adjust to your surroundings, use the bathroom, and prepare to kick butt! Try relaxing your mind by closing your eyes, taking deep breaths, visualizing yourself succeeding, and even thinking about activities you’re looking forward to after the test.
During the test
1. Don’t linger on a question.
As you already know, these are timed tests. You don’t want to get tripped up or distracted by a single question. If you’re having difficulty discerning an answer, move on to the next question. If time permits, you can always revisit the more difficult questions later.
2. Keep your eye on the clock.
You should be aware of both the time allotted and when you begin a particular section. This will allow you to pace yourself and ensure you get through each section in its entirety. With that being said, do not rush. You want to strike a balance between swift and careful reading. If you move too fast, it could lead to misread passages and careless errors. (like filling out the wrong bubble). Allow yourself the opportunity to contemplate each question, even if you think you recognize the correct answer.
3. Don’t look for patterns in the answers.
This means keeping your cool if you get more than three B’s in a row. It’s totally possible, so don’t second guess yourself because of it. Also, don’t try to sniff out experimental questions. Both the SAT and ACT plant experimental sections and/or questions somewhere within the tests. These are questions that may be used for future tests. They are designed to remain well hidden, so you will never know if the question is part of your actual test or an experimental test question. You should attempt to answer everything to the best of your ability.
4. Don’t panic.
Sure, easier said than done. But if you can manage to relax, you’ll do yourself a world of good. By remaining calm, you’ll be able to remain focused.
Overall, try not to put so much pressure on yourself. Even though this might feel like the most important test of the century, keep things in perspective. Think about how many tests you have taken since you were in elementary school. Now think about all the exams you will take while you are in college. This is only ONE test out of all of them. Your score will not define who you are and it will not define the direction of your future. So, strut into that classroom and give it your best shot! TBH, that’s all anyone can do.