Test Anxiety Game Plan

According to the American Test Anxieties Association, 34-38% of students experience at least moderately-high anxiety when it comes to taking exams.  Here are some strategies for keeping those test-day nerves in check when it comes to the SAT.

The Night Before

Practice Makes…Anxious

It may be tempting to think sneaking in one more practice test or spending the evening drilling on a difficult section will make you that much sharper in the morning, but don’t do it.  Last minute cramming is ineffective for tests like the SAT, so find a relaxing activity that takes your mind off of the upcoming exam instead.  Plus, if you happen to do poorly on your final practices, you’ve just given yourself new reasons to feel anxious.  

Plan What You Can

Another way to reduce stress leading up to the test is to make sure all the logistics are in order before going to bed the night before.  You’ll rest better knowing there is no chance you’re going to forget your ID, get lost on the way to the test, or show up naked.  Before hitting the sack, set out everything you need.  For the SAT that includes:

  • Printed admission ticket
  • Photo ID
  • Pencils and eraser
  • Acceptable calculator and extra batteries
  • Printed map to the testing center (just in case something happens with your GPS device)
  • Comfortable clothes
  • A drink and snacks for the break

Go To Bed On Time

Once everything is ready, go to bed at a decent hour.  At this stage in the game, getting a good night’s sleep is your best strategy for success.  Go ahead and let your inner-worrywart win when it comes to setting the alarm though.  Make sure you have a back-up clock set, especially if you have a tendency to sleep in.  

Test Day

Psych Yourself Up

Beat back your test-day jitters by starting the day with something that makes you feel good.  Whether it’s going for a quick morning jog or listening to your favorite music, get yourself pumped up about the day.  You can do this!

Leave Early

Remember all those things you set out the night before?  Take advantage of your preparation and get out the door early.  Admission to the test begins 15 minutes before the exam begins, but plan on arriving as much as 30 minutes early to give yourself enough time for unexpected delays.  Getting lost, hitting traffic, or having trouble parking are surefire ways to stress-out if you haven’t built in a big enough buffer.

During the Test

Ignore Everyone Else

Once you’re seated, forget about everyone else taking the test with you.  It doesn’t matter how fast the person sitting one row over seems to be flipping pages.  You aren’t directly competing with the other people at your site, so stay focused on your own test and ignore everyone else.

Take Advantage of Breaks

The SAT can feel like a marathon undertaking.  Thankfully, there are a few breaks built into the schedule.  Take advantage of these breaks to stretch your legs, get a drink, eat your snacks, and reorient yourself.  Once you have finished a part of the exam, let it go completely.  Don’t waste your break time rehashing questions or worrying about your responses on earlier sections.  

Deep Breaths

Sometimes despite the best preparation in the world, test anxiety can still creep up on you in the middle of an exam.  If that happens, give yourself permission to slow down.  You’ll do better on the remaining questions if you allow yourself a moment to refocus.  Take deep breaths and let your body relax.  Remind yourself that no single test defines you as a person.  

Almost everyone experiences some degree of anxiety when it comes to taking standardized tests like the SAT.  Thankfully, by incorporating these strategies into your test-day game plan, you should be able to keep nerves from getting the better of you.