No one has ever said that the ACT and SAT are not stressful. Beyond the weeks of studying, attending refresher classes, taking practice tests, and listening to ACT/SAT myths—there’s also a lot riding on your test scores. Scholarship opportunities, college acceptance odds, future job and internship prospects. To say that the ACT and SAT is a big deal would be a massive understatement.
So…it makes sense that some students would get a little bit panicky over the exam. And come test day, some are nervous wrecks (My hands were shaking so much I had to re-write my name on the Scantron!) Unfortunately that nervous energy can be a barrier when it comes to focus and performance.
There are a number of methods that can help alleviate or lessen anxiety and nerves during the test. These quick and quiet little tricks can definitely help nervous students calm down and take the test at their very best:
Regulate Your Breathing
“Deep breaths” is a very common method of calming someone down, but it’s much more than simply inhale-exhale. By focusing on breathing, students can slow their heart rate and their racing mind and feel much more at ease.
There are various timing options to try out. Some suggest breathing in for five seconds and exhaling for ten. Musicians might be familiar with inhale four, hold four, exhale eight. Try out a few different timings to find which combo works best for you.
Sit Up Straight
Posture is important. Besides being healthier for you, sitting up straight can help with your confidence and relaxation. Curling in or slouching can increase nerves (and overall discomfort) which can lead to poor test performance.
So sit up straight in your chair, keep your shoulders down instead of tensed up. Enjoy that confidence boost and relax your muscles so you can focus on the questions.
Take a Mental Break
If you start to feel yourself getting overwhelmed, it’s ok to take a brief mental break from the test. (And we do emphasize brief). Take ten seconds or so to imagine what fun thing you’ll do after the test—go see a movie, get some ice cream, hang out with a friend, etc. Or even visit your “happy place” in your head. Picture a tropical beach or a beautiful meadow. It might sound cheesy, but allowing your brain a few seconds to reset and relax can be helpful in the long run.
Be Your Own Cheerleader
As cool as it would be to have your own personal hype man stand at your desk and pump you up, it’s not gonna happen. So you’ll have to take the cheerleading into your own hands—or head, in this case.
If your confidence starts to lag, or your anxiety starts to ramp up, talk to yourself in a positive manor. Thinking things like “Take it easy, you studied hard for this” can give you a much-needed motivational boost.
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