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Sunday, October 2, 2022

How to Reduce SAT, ACT Test Day Stress | Education

While colleges are increasingly opting for testing, many students still choose to take the ACT and/or SAT in an effort to increase their chances of admission. Because these high-stakes exams are known to cause anxiety, it’s important for test-takers to keep negative emotions in check.

Here are eight strategies to help you overcome stress before and during the exam:

  • Make sure all your materials are ready.
  • Do a little physical activity.
  • Eat a full, familiar breakfast.
  • Look back at your starting point.
  • Connect with encouraging friends.
  • squeeze something.
  • Control your breathing.
  • Put the test in perspective.

before testing

Make sure all your materials are ready

At least the day before your ACT or SAT, double-check that all your materials—such as your calculator, ID, and pencil—are ready. It’s important to do this step early in case you end up needing to buy pencils, batteries, etc. for your calculator.

It would be a shame to realize that it was too late that you missed what you need to take the test, so give yourself a headroom for unforeseen misfortunes.

do a little physical exercise

Countless studies have proven that physical activity is a very effective stress detoxifier.Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts declares that exercise “has a unique ability to uplift and relax, provide stimulation and calm, fight depression and eliminate stress.” The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota agrees, saying exercise reduces “stress” negative impact”, while mock positive, such as increased alertness.

On the morning of the test, you can do 20 minutes of yoga, take a short bike ride or do a brisk walk around the block. Whatever activity you do, make sure it’s neither too strenuous nor a new routine that might leave you feeling sore and exhausting during the test.

Eat a full, familiar breakfast

You may have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Victoria, Australia’s Department of Health and Human Services explains what many studies have shown: Breakfast boosts energy levels and short-term focus by replenishing the body with glucose.

The key, however, is to neither eat so little that you feel hungry during the exam, nor so much that you feel sick. Also, you should stick to breakfast foods that you know your body will accept. In other words, avoid any new foods that might upset your stomach.

Finally, at breakfast, drink just enough fluids to stay hydrated. This way, you can avoid wasting time on bathroom breaks or feeling uncomfortable while waiting for a formal break.

Review your starting point

Do not study any material on the day of the test or the night before. Viewing unfamiliar or difficult content can throw you into a panic before the test, which can adversely affect your score.

Rather than blaming yourself for your weaknesses, take a moment to reflect on the progress you’ve made. Compare your first few practice test scores to your most recent scores and make yourself proud of your progress. Doing so can boost your confidence, which in turn can translate into better test scores.

Connect with inspiring friends

Everyone knows that friendship enriches our lives. But did you know that maintaining close friendships also has tangible health benefits?

A 2011 study published in the journal Developmental Psychology concluded: “The presence of a best friend during the experience significantly buffered the effects of negative experiences on cortisol and global self-worth.” In other words, the presence of a best friend can make difficult experiences more manageable.

For this reason, consider reaching out to friends in your situation shortly before your ACT or SAT test. Encourage each other and exchange jokes or motivational quotes to lighten the mood. You can even make a plan for after the exam so you both can look forward to something fun.

During the test

squeeze something

did you know Many beloved orators speak with something in their hands? Even professionals can feel nervous, and many choose to ease their anxiety in simple and unobtrusive ways.

If the proctor allows you, you can do the same by squeezing a stress ball, eraser, paper clip, or putty ball before and during the test. “The great thing about squeezing is that it releases a certain energy. It also relaxes you,” says stress expert, motivational speaker and author Dr. David Posen.

control your breathing

Close your eyes and inhale deeply through your nose. Hold your breath for a count of four to five seconds. Then, exhale evenly and completely and repeat the process a few times.

Deep breathing may seem too simplistic or cliché to be useful, but it is a proven technique for relaxing muscles and activating the brain. “Things that happen when you’re stressed, like increased heart rate, shortness of breath, and high blood pressure, decrease as you take a deep breath and relax,” says University of Michigan Hospital-Michigan Medicine.

Best of all, this technique only takes a little time, so you can use it before the exam starts or during particularly difficult sections.

perspective test

Without a doubt, the ACT and SAT are important tests. If you get excellent grades in any of these areas, you can increase your chances of getting into most universities. If you do exceptionally well, you can even get a scholarship or get into an honors program.

However, your ACT or SAT scores aren’t everything, they’re your high school experience. College admissions officers confirm that this is not the most important factor in college applications, and that exceptionally strong scores cannot make up for four years of low scores.

So you have to keep in mind that while standardized test scores do influence many college applications, other factors—GPA, student demographics, extracurricular activities, personal essays, letters of recommendation, etc.—are also strongly considered.

If you find yourself very worried when taking the ACT or SAT, try to look at the big picture. Unless it’s the late fall of your senior year, you’ll be able to take the test again. Also, be aware that the College Board, which administers the SAT, and the ACT now both superscore, allowing you to submit your highest scores on different sections of any test.

Bottom line: There is no reason to make yourself sick.

Sometimes stress is inevitable, especially when it comes to major exams. A little stress can be a powerful motivator, but a lot of stress can be detrimental and can hurt your performance. Use these tips to keep yourself in the right frame of mind.


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