Gearing Up for Standardized Tests

If standardized testing stresses you out, you are not alone. There are ways to test prep that will help you go into standardized tests with confidence. We’ve listed test-taking tips for before and during your exam.

Before the Standardized 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. Be sure to look into how the standardized test is scored before taking it. That way, you will know what to expect.

2. Make sure you have all the proper materials

Bring a copy of your ticket, an acceptable photo ID, sharpened pencils, a permitted calculator, and snacks/drinks to consume outside the classroom. For more information, go online and check lists for items that are allowed and/or forbidden. Gather these things in advance to ensure smooth sailing on the day of the exam!

3. Get a good night of sleep

A full night of rest will allow you to wake up feeling refreshed, invigorated, and focused. Standardized tests like the ACT or SAT 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 more likely to make careless mistakes.

4. 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 standardized test, and reach for something rich in protein and fiber. (Think: eggs, fruit, granola, yogurt, and nuts). Never underestimate the impact of a healthy meal!

5. 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.

6. 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. In preparing for the morning, you may want to make a transportation plan. Will you drive yourself, or will someone else take you? By making these decisions in advance, it will be easier to make sure you arrive early. And arriving early will give you time to adjust to your surroundings or use the bathroom. 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 Standardized 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 picking 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 ACT and SAT plant experimental sections and/or questions somewhere within the tests. These are questions that may be used for future standardized 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 will stay focused. Remember, you prepared for this! Be confident in what you know.

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 and middle 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 give it your best shot!