Tips for How Not to Stress About the ACT & SAT


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Fateful Fretting: Some Tips for How Not to Stress About the ACT/SAT

So it’s that time of year when you’ve got nothing better to do than thank the world for the wonderful invention known as summer break, suntan, figure out what to do with your plethora of free time and wait for test scores.

That’s right! Test scores, coming in a mailbox near you–objectifying your hopes, talents, and anxieties into a couple of numbers that everyone says will define your chances of ever getting into the college your mother or father or overbearing grandmother have dreamed of you getting into.

Of course, these scores just comprise one part of the extensive college application process; things like good grades, sports, public service activities, essays and your beautiful personality are also taken into consideration by those admission officers.

Despite this knowledge, when push comes to shove and the academic clock ticks down to the state mandated testing days or the test you signed up for at the beginning of the school year and totally forgot about up until three days ago, a bunch of people still stress about taking tests.

So, how can you stop yourself from freaking out the day of a test and optimize your ACT and SAT scores, too? Here are six things that just might help you calm your nerves and ace that standardized test:


  1. Use People

    –or less controversially sounding, use your teachers. They are there to instruct you, hence the embedded word “teach” in their job title. Ask your math teachers for help if there are algebra or geometry topics you don’t remember that well. Discuss the conventions of the English language with your English teachers. Confirm your speculations about physics, biology, and chemistry with you science teachers if you are in doubt. Essentially, make use of the practically free tutors at your finger tips.

  2. Use More People

    –aka, your friends. You know, the ones who may or may not be smarter than you but somehow always do better on the units tests even though you studied for like five hours… Yeah, talk with these people. If your buddies seem as cool as a cucumber on the day of any test, they might have coping strategies they can pass on to you, or have study strategies they can teach, or they can send you good test day vibes. Plus, they may actually be just as nervous about a particular test as you, and that feeling of camaraderie is often a great thing to have in a stressful situation like a standardized test.

  3. Use Even More People

    –parents, cousins, the nanny in college, that kid in pre-calc who gets 102% on the quiz even though there was no extra credit. Human beings are helpful creatures. They like the inflated feeling of importance they get when assisting another fellow human. Even if it means talking with that one guy in US History you’ve never talked to before, try it. Random people are often more willing to help than the people you already know since it gives them a chance to be a genuinely good neighbor, and they may have a fresh perspective on testing that your friends don’t possess that could really help you on the testing subjects you struggle with.

  4. Use Your Tests

    –You take tests in school, right? Think of them as the “ACT-lite” a new invention that lets you focus on one subject and gives you an idea of how well you might do when you take the real thing. Utilize testing days as moments to gauge which environments allow you to perform best. The clothes you wear, the food you eat, the people you talk you, the number of  hours you sleep, and the studying you do up to the test impact personal performance. Learn, observe, and know thyself, and testing will be less of a pain.

  5. Use Books

    –the ACT/SAT practice books. Though some are a little hokey, more often than not they contain a fountain of facts and tips that help on the test day. These books are made by people who have a license to speak intelligently about the tests and preparations needed for success. They also have practice tests you can take, and if one thing is true it is that practice makes perfect.

  6. Use Your Head

    In the end, you can always take the test again if you didn’t get the score you wanted. There is a limit this, however: the tests cost money, taking too many is both time-consuming and pointless if your scores aren’t increasing, and once you apply for colleges there is little room for late score submissions. Additionally, colleges consider other aspects of your resume–a high GPA can certainly make up for a lower than expected ACT or SAT score, and colleges want well-rounded individuals, not just people who can fill out a test really well.

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