Testing one, two, three …

Multiple choice test

Stressing over the SAT? These tips can help.

By Samantha Kupiainen

For many students, the hardest part about taking the SAT is solving the seemingly foreign math equations and forming a thesis for the ever-dreaded essay portion. However, for an unlucky 16-20 percent of test takers, the most difficult challenge is combating poor performance due to test anxiety.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), symptoms of test anxiety include headache, excessive sweating, rapid heartbeat, lightheadedness, feelings of fear, helplessness and difficulty concentrating. All that stress makes it hard to recall information and can result in lower scores.

Don’t let test anxiety get in the way of preparing for the SAT. It’s a big test, and big dreams are on the line. Use these five tips to prep – but not while cramming the night before.

SAT Practice Tests with textbooks on a desk.

  1. Work on practice tests with someone supportive and knowledgeable. Working one-on-one with an empathetic friend or family member allows you to feel more comfortable with the material and (hopefully) be more at ease when test day arrives. The more comfortable you are, the less anxious you’ll be.
  2. Spend a few minutes writing about what you most fear. As silly as it may sound, this allows you to physically see your fears and gives you a better sense of how irrational they are. According to Richard Driscoll, Ph.D., director of the American Text Anxieties Association, this exercise frees you of your worries and allows you to focus more on the test and less on your anxiety.
  3. Don’t pay attention to what other people say. Maybe an older sibling or close friend already took the SAT and complained about how difficult it was or how there wasn’t enough time to finish. Don’t let other people scare you. Each person is a different type of test taker and interprets the SAT in a unique way. Prepare for the material based on your teachers’ guidance, not from word-of-mouth.
  4. Read. Reading and writing make up the largest portions of the SAT. A good way to be prepared for that material is to read in your spare time. Not only does it broaden your vocabulary, but it relaxes you and calms a racing and nervous mind.
  5. Don’t pull an all-nighter. Don’t stay up the night before the SAT studying or worrying. You’ll do more harm than good by taking the test on little to no sleep. The ADAA reports that being physically and emotionally exhausted makes it more difficult for students to handle test anxiety and results in poor performance.

Girl in white shirt reading many textbooks on table with many high stacking


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