Stressed about your upcoming college prep tests? Here are some tips to help you keep your cool.
- Breathe. You’ve been hearing a lot about these exams, and how these scores can affect your college admissions, but at the end of the day, it is just a test. Take a minute, inhale, exhale, and remember that you’re going to be okay. Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness is instrumental in increasing processing and cognition, which can lead to clearer thinking and higher test scores. It may also help to remember that many college admissions are now using holistic measures, which means a single score will not decide your fate in academia.
- Become familiar with the format. There is a consistent rhyme and reason to these tests. Take practice tests. Read prep books. Make sure you’re comfortable with the format before stepping in for the real thing. Would you walk into the World Series game without taking a couple shots in the batting cages?
- Time yourself. This is a huge one. These tests can seem daunting, so breaking them up into little pieces is key. The best way to do this? Get a stop watch, or even better, a Top Score Watch, a test preparation watch that you’ll be able to bring into the SAT, ACT, PSAT/NMSQT and SAT Subject Test exams with you. Know your place at all times, and move on if you’ve found that you’ve spent too much time in one area. It is way better to get to every question, upping your chances of getting to all of the ones you know, than getting stuck in a spot you’re having trouble with.
- Use the process of elimination. Don’t be afraid to break each question into pieces. Some of the responses you will be able to eliminate right away, which will leave you with a smaller percentage to guess through.
- Read everything carefully. Sometimes the test is trying to trick you--rushing will only lead to misread items. This is where number 3, pacing, comes into play again. Give yourself enough time for each question, and don’t be afraid to move on when something isn’t making sense. If you plan correctly, there may be time to revisit trickier items at the end of a section. Speaking of revisiting...
- Circle items on the scantron that you’ve skipped. This helps eliminate the possibility of accidentally missing a number, and then having to erase your whole answer sheet to re-fill in bubbles. Not only is this a huge time waster, but can cause stress that seeps into the rest of your testing.
The key thing to remember as you start prepping for exams is that your attitude can help dictate how well you do. Eat a good breakfast, feel comfortable with your own abilities, and practice, practice, practice! At the end of the day, you’re more than a test score, and colleges will recognize that.