It’s almost "Game Day"! But we’re not talking about the Super Bowl…we’re talking college tests.
In the next few months, many students are focusing on the ACTs and the SATs, so it’s time to practice, learn the moves, and get your game face on.
If you want to perform well on your tests, a positive mental attitude, stamina, and ability to stay cool under pressure are all very important qualities to have. In fact, studies have shown that if you panic before taking a test, you hamper your brain’s ability to remember essential skills and responses that will help you to perform well on the actual test.
Ivy Ed, A Collegewise Company, has developed the following plan to help you maximize your scores. One week before Test Day, follow these steps and you’ll be a champion!
Go shopping! These are the things you will need to have with you when you walk into the test center:
- #2 pencils – we recommend regular #2 pencils (not mechanical pencils because sometimes proctors won’t allow them). Pens are NOT allowed.
- Extra batteries for your calculator
- A cheap digital watch (no beeping, please) to wear the day of the test
- Two bottles of water and two snacks—no candy bars; something reasonably healthy with little sugar. Sugar crashes don’t help you to choose the answers!
As practice, we recommend completing one section of the test, four nights in a row. So beginning Sunday night, take an English (ACT) / Writing & Language (SAT) section. If you have a huge paper due or a major test to take, it’s okay to skip one night, but then get right back to doing the practice test sections the following night. This is more of a stress reduction technique than it is a study formula. By taking a test section every day, you’ll remind yourself that you DO know how to solve the problems on the test.
Make sure that you know where the testing site is. If you don’t know where you’re taking the test, drive to the test site location to make sure that you know how to get there (and that there isn’t any ongoing road construction)! You may also want to consider having a parent or trusted adult drive you on the day of the test. You don’t want to be distracted or preoccupied by anything, or have something annoying occur while driving that may derail you from your mission.
In the evening: complete a practice math section with your calculator.
Complete a practice reading section.
Complete a practice science test (ACT) or math no-calculator (SAT) section.
If you are taking one of the optional essay sections, use this time to outline a couple of essay topics. Thursday night is also when you need to get a good night’s sleep. Research shows that teenagers should be getting nine hours of sleep a night. You need to relax yourself before the day of the test, and Thursday is the time to begin doing so.
When you get home from school, do a few problems from each of the test sections.
And that is it.
Do NOT think about the test again until tomorrow morning (we mean it)!
No cramming, no memorizing 50 vocabulary words, nothing.
The ACT and SAT are not tests you can cram for, so all that’s left for you to do is to make sure your mental “toughness” is set at maximum level.
Watch a movie with friends, read a book, take a walk; do anything except more test prep! Friday night you should pack a backpack and lay out comfortable clothes to wear on the day of the test.
Test Day morning is usually hectic, and there are still a few activities you should complete before you leave for the test site. Get up a little earlier to give yourself time to do the following:
Saturday (Test Day)
This is an important morning and we want you to be fully awake!
- Do 25 jumping jacks (once you’re out of bed!)
- Take a shower (even if you are a night shower kind of person). The fresh water will wake you up!
- For the ACT (to get your brain kicked into gear) do either one passage from the English section or 10 problems from the section that you are most scared of. Or do a couple of each type of problem from the SAT. Any 10 questions will do.
- Finally: eat breakfast. The test takes far more energy than does sitting in classes all day at school. Even if you don’t normally eat breakfast, you should eat something. If you normally drink coffee, please drink your usual amount. If you’re not used to caffeine, then do NOT drink coffee or Red Bull or any of those types of beverages (they can cause anxiety and jitters)! Also, if you have a cold the morning of the test, make sure that any medication you take is something you have taken before and that it is the non-drowsy variety. In general, you should not drink, eat, or ingest anything that you have never taken within 48 hours of beginning the test.
At the testing site:
- Arrive 15 minutes early and with your photo ID
- Feel anxious? Don’t worry. Remind yourself of the last time you felt this way (maybe when you were about to do something fun, like ride a roller coaster, or about to do something challenging but also fun, like play in an important game for your sports team). The point is: when your body starts freaking out, that’s NOT a sign for you to do the same. Instead, you should remember this is an important—but not impossible—challenge you’re facing, one that you have been working hard to prepare for as best as possible!
- When the proctor tells you that you may begin each section, take one deep relaxation breath and then begin. This test is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Taking that one deep breath will ensure that you are centered enough to be able to answer those first few questions correctly in a calm, clear manner.
- During the test, you may be given two breaks. Eat one snack during each of them to prevent low blood sugar. Please make sure you also drink something.
The two rough spots you might experience while taking the test are both physical and psychological, and you can prevent them from happening. If you eat during both breaks, you’ll prevent the physical energy crash that happens sometime around the fourth section.
Psychologically, there’ll be a time when you feel exhausted by what you have already done and overwhelmed by how much more you have to do. If you let these feelings take over, you’ll lose focus. You can get through the test without hurting your score if you refuse to think about how much more you have left to do on the test, and just focus instead on the question in front of you.
There's so much more to know about test taking, but these are some solid tips leading up to "Game Day".