9 Tips for Overcoming Test Anxiety and Crushing the ACT or SAT

Female college student scratching her head due to stress.

Source: Flickr user helga

Test anxiety is something that many college-bound students experience. Even though test scores are just one piece of the college admissions puzzle, many students worry about taking the SAT and ACT. For many students, anxiety comes from low confidence. The best way to combat low confidence before a test is to prepare. Here are some test anxiety tips to help you out.

1. Know what to expect

Instead of going into the test blindly, learn about the test. At the very least, learn a bit about the format of the test so that you know what to expect. But, it’s best to try your hand at a past year or practice test.

Both the SAT and the ACT offer sample questions and tests. Learn about the material that will be covered on the exams. Take a few timed practice tests so you can see where you need to study further.

2. Study in advance

Don’t wait until the last minute to start studying for the test. Instead, start studying a few months prior so that by the time the test rolls around, you’ll be ready.

Take advantage of test prep resources that offer sample questions, test tips, and other information about the college entrance exams. If you can’t afford to pay for an expensive test prep service, there are still many free resources available online or at your local library.

3. Know the test location

If you are not familiar with the test location, take a trip to the location before the test. You don’t want to get lost on the way to the test and arrive late, this will help reduce any extra stress from having to find your way on the day of the test.

4. Prepare required items the night before

Prepare all of the items on the SAT or ACT test day checklist the night before so you’re not searching for them the morning of the test.

This means you’ll need to have your ID, admissions ticket, No. 2 pencils, eraser, and calculator (if allowed) ready to take to the test in the morning. Again, less stress before the test will help boost your confidence and let you focus on what really matters.

5. Go to bed early

Another one of our test anxiety tips is to go to bed early. Think about it. When you’re tired, it’s harder to concentrate. Do your best to go to sleep as early as needed for you to wake up in the morning feeling well-rested.

6. Sleep where you’re most comfortable

Even though you should avoid cramming before the test, you’ll probably do some last-minute studying the night before. Don’t go overboard and fall asleep where you’re studying. You won’t sleep well with your head down on your desk or on the kitchen table.

Do your best to get to your own bed, which is probably the place you will feel most comfortable. Sleeping where you’re most comfortable will help you to feel fully rested and ready for the test in the morning.

7. Set your alarm

This probably goes without saying, but make sure you set your alarm. If you use your phone like most of us do for an alarm, set a few alarms just in case you accidentally dismiss your alarm instead of pressing snooze.

If you’re the type of person who has a hard time waking up in the morning, it might be worth it to put your alarm across the room, forcing you to get out of bed. Or, consider having your parents or a friend serve a backup human alarm. You don’t want to wake up late and rush while getting ready, or even worse, sleep through the start of the exam.

8. Eat a good breakfast

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that is especially true when you’re taking the SAT or ACT. Eating a good meal helps you to feel good and will help your cognitive skills. Eat a healthy breakfast and skip the sugary foods and drink.

9. Stay positive

Negativity leads to anxiety. As soon as you start having any negative thoughts about the test, stop yourself from thinking about those things. Instead, keep telling yourself that you can do it. It is also important to stay away from other negative or anxious test takers (or share these tips with them). When you hear others being negative, it makes it easier to think negative thoughts yourself.

Don’t let test anxiety get the best of you. Prepare before the test, stay positive, and take care of yourself. By trying these test anxiety tips, your anxiety will ease and you’ll feel better as you are approaching and taking the exam.

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3 thoughts on “9 Tips for Overcoming Test Anxiety and Crushing the ACT or SAT”

  1. Thanks for the tips on handling the ACT. My son is getting ready to take the ACT, and I want to do everything I can to help him be prepared. I like that you mentioned to eat a good breakfast before the test because it will help your cognitive skills. I will be sure to make him a big and nutritious breakfast on test day.

  2. I like how you talked about getting enough sleep. Sleep has so much to do with our serotonin levels that directly regulates our anxiety levels. I’ll have to remember to get more sleep if I want to feel a little better throughout the day.

  3. Very informative article. The tips you mentioned are practical and easy-to-do, but are indeed effective for overcoming ACT/SAT test anxiety. They key to being successful when preparing for those tests is to take your test prep program seriously and start with it early. Thanks for the valuable content.

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