Overcoming Test Anxiety: It’s Easier Than You Think

Stressed Asian Female StudentThe ticking clock, the five minute warnings, the moment you realize you are NOT going to finish this section: the ACT and SAT tests can cast a cloud over your college aspirations.  The tests are certainly high pressure, and here’s the irony—using your critical thinking skills will most likely decrease your score. This does not, however, mean that you can’t get the score you want; it’s simply a matter of adjusting the way you approach a test and working to reduce your test anxiety. (Quick Tip: Try this 5 Minute Cure for Test Anxiety!)

1.     Deductive Logic is your go-to

Our educational system tends to instruct with a huge emphasis on dynamic, inductive reasoning. Basically, your teachers give you a wealth of information to analyze and disseminate, after which you are expected to draw your own conclusions. While this encourages critical thought, it is not a strategy that will serve you well on standardized tests and works against students as it increases test anxiety when students become more worried about an expected answer than confident in the right answer.

Think of a crime drama, any crime drama. The formula for solving cases is your basic study in the application of deductive logic. The aim of the detectives in these shows is to eliminate suspects based on likelihood of guilt. Thus they rule out potential suspects until they are left with one. It is not a science; it is an exercise in reasoning.  To help reduce your anxiety about a test, think of yourself as a detective.

You are the detective when you take the test. Don’t stress over finding the best answer; get rid of the worst. You may not remember every concept or skill, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get the question right!  Knowing this alone can help keep you calm for a big test. Eliminate the clearly incorrect answers, move on to the most-likely incorrect, and see what you’re left with. You will save time and effort.

2.     Be Prepared

Most of the concepts you will be dealing with on the test will be either fundamental skills you learned years ago or skills you may have never learned or mastered. The English grammar you will be tested on is rather obscure, and the math levels range from Pre-Algebra and Arithmetic to Plane Geometry and Trigonometry. The SAT vocabulary is esoteric at best (and if you’ve been studying for the big test, you’ll recognize esoteric as one of your vocabulary words).

Going beyond the basics of memorization when studying, students should work to truly understand key concepts.  Anything a student has worked to memorize will quickly go out the window when test anxiety rises.  However, something the student has worked to learn and relate to, not just an attempt to memorize, will be easier to recall.  Feeling confident in what you know is one more way to kick test anxiety to the curb.

There is a wealth of information that is free and easily accessible. Use internet resources to re-familiarize yourself with grammar and math. Focus on grammar rules for punctuation, noun-pronoun agreement, noun-verb agreement, and parallelism. Reading anything relatively well-written will help you see good grammar in practice.

Since the math is cumulative, you will want to study the concepts that are tested with the most frequency. These include multi-variable equations, special triangles, complementary angles, circle formulas, logarithms, polygons, and graphing equations. Many students also struggle with word problems, which require a great deal of practice.

Finally, SAT exam students should study college-level vocabulary regularly.

Regular studying and engaging with grammar, math, or vocabulary concepts will help you overcome test anxiety as the clock ticks down on your big test day!

3.     Perfect Your Speed Reading

College Entrance Exams are not an opportunity to practice thoughtful, thorough reading. In fact, conscientious reading in this case will do you a disservice. Both the ACT and SAT reading exams are administered within a very short time window, which leaves little room for error. In many cases, students spend so much of their allotted time reading that there is little to no time to answer the questions. Don’t fall into this trap!

Speed reading, or skimming, is not an intangible skill that cannot be taught. It is training yourself to find and quickly scan necessary information, and picking the technique that feels most natural to you.  You can start by reading in chunks of words, skipping over unnecessary articles like “the” and “a.” Keep an eye out for proper nouns and adjectives—these are clues. There is no right way to skim, so find your own strategy and get comfortable with it.

The bottom line is, if you approach the test with confidence and foresight, knowing that you have perfected your strategies, your test anxiety will be significantly reduced.  By reducing your test anxiety alone, students can raise their SAT score by as much as 200 points!  When studying for tests such as the SAT, ACT, or SSAT, conciously focus on feeling confident and relaxed.  Learning how to feel about the test is just as important as learning test concepts.  In the end, you will be pleasantly surprised when your scores arrive!

file-684870121SAT Preparation Group advises in test prep, college planning, and success strategies for teens. Call Us Today at 877-672-8773 or click here for a free consultation.

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