SAT Preparation: Tips for Handing College Entrance Exam Stress

Be sure to get a good night's sleep before your SAT!

Any test can be stressful. Let’s think of a few—a calculus exam, your road test, THE SAT. None are particularly pleasant experiences—agreed?  But college entrance exams, like the SAT and ACT, can be even more overwhelming since they mean a bit more than your average test. It’s important to be able to manage the stress that comes along with the inescapable knowledge that the SAT and ACT play a significant role in getting you into the college of your choice. Here are a few tips for handling the stress:

  • Take Practice Tests: The more comfortable you are with the test, the more prepared you’ll be come the big test date. Take as many SAT or ACT practice exams as you have available to get familiar with format, question types, and your time management abilities.  If you practice enough, the official exam will feel like just another practice test.
  • Don’t Cram: It’s unlikely that that you’ll learn something while cramming the night before the SAT or ACT that will better your performance on the test. Don’t overwhelm yourself the day before the test with all the last minute tricks you can learn, or by taking another full exam. It’s not going to help, and you’re not going to want to be falling asleep during the actual test with your number 2 pencil in hand. Instead get a good night’s rest. You’ve prepared, and sleep will certainly benefit you more than cramming.
  • Eat a Healthy Breakfast: Your parents were right—breakfast is the most important meal of the day, particularly before such a big test! Get your blood sugar up and your brain functioning most efficiently with a healthy breakfast. Plus, you’ll be taking your exam for quite a few hours and you won’t want to be hungry, or for your stomach to be growling too loudly in that quiet testing atmosphere.
  • Read Directions and Questions Carefully: Don’t get so stressed out staring at your first real SAT that it all becomes a blur. Read the directions to get into focus; and, READ QUESTIONS CAREFULLY. Knowing what’s being asked of you is a simple way to avoid careless mistakes.
  • Think Positively: It may sound corny, but believe in yourself and go into the test with a good attitude. Negative, “I’m going to fail” thoughts will only destroy the confidence you’ve been building throughout your test preparation. At this point you’ve done all you can, and now it’s just a matter of applying everything you’ve learned and practiced. Take a deep breath, keep a positive perspective, and know that you’re going to do just fine.

Some stress before a test can actually be beneficial—it can push you to work harder and to put forth maximum effort, but too much test stress and anxiety will certainly take its toll on a student’s test-time confidence, so be sure to keep these tips in mind.

If you liked this advice, and want to reduce any test stress you might encounter by not knowing your SAT and ACT vocabulary—check out Vocab Videos!


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