For many students, just the words SAT and ACT are enough to make their teeth clench and stomachs cramp –a feeling of dread that if they don’t score X, then how will they ever get into college?
The reality is there are many good schools for every student AND there are many things that you CAN do to help you do your best on these standardized tests. Here’s our top five –
Practice, Practice, Practice
You don’t get better at anything in this world without practicing — be it the violin, soccer or acting. And that certainly holds true for the SAT and ACT as well. No one can expect to be perfect – let alone even good – on the first try. So instead of beating yourself up about not getting a good score the first time, take that time to practice. Learn the strategies and then practice using real practice tests put out by the test-makers.
Manage Your Time
As these standardized tests are timed, it’s important that you are always aware of the clock. The more time you spend on one problem means that much less time you have to spend on the rest of the problems. And the test makers know that. So . . .use your time wisely and do not spend too much time on any one problem. If necessary, take a guess and then put a mark on your test booklet so if you have time at the end you can come back to the problem and work on it some more.
Neither the SAT nor the ACT penalizes for incorrect answers, so you should never leave a question blank. Even if you run out of time, be sure to bubble in an answer for every question. (But speaking of time – hopefully you won’t run out of it, since you will have been practicing time management and your pacing for a good while by this point.)
While all of your guesses won’t be correct (unless you are extremely lucky in which case you should just go to Las Vegas instead of college), odds are you’ll get a few correct and the colleges won’t know if you got them right because you knew the area of a right triangle or if you just guessed without reading the problem.
Get Plenty of Rest
These tests are long enough and hard enough to do when you are wide awake; it’s much harder to do when you are half asleep. Studies show that teenagers need at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night to be fully cognizant. So . . .work on getting that many hours each night the week before the test.
Going into the test worried that your life will fall apart if you don’t do well on these tests is not only a bad test-taking strategy but also a bad strategy for life. While these tests are important, they will not determine your future happiness or contentment so being tense, stressed, and worried will only make you more uncomfortable and less able to focus and do your best.
So, unclench those teeth and relax your stomach muscles. With these five tips, you are back in the driver’s seat. And always remember, with these tests and in life. . .breathe deeply, visualize your success, and… always believe in yourself. Know that no matter what happens, you have practiced beforehand and tried your best – and remember that it is those study habits that will set you up for much joy and fulfillment in life.