Self Care and Brain Boosters: Keys to the SATs and ACTs

Dun… Dun… Dun…. (probably) the most dreaded moment of your high school career has arrived… Standardized testing. AH! Your teachers, parents and friends have been talking about it for years and it’s probably stressing you out. Unfortunately, there is no study guide that will help you get a perfect score and there is no secret formula to absolutely blowing the test out of the water. BUT there are a few things you CAN do to score higher on standardized testing.

Here is one secret that more people should know: The SATs and ACTs are becoming increasingly irrelevant to many college admissions processes. Yes, I said it: irrelevant. Many schools are now test optional, meaning that you do not have submit your tests scores. Even schools that do require an SAT or ACT score are recognizing that standardized test scores provide a less prominent role in admissions decisions than in pervious decades. So, deep breath fellow scholars, standardized testing is not a matter of life and death. However, for those applying to schools that take into account testing scores, here is some advice that can help you battle through this stressful process with grace:

1. Pick the test that caters to your skills

The SAT and the ACT are very different. Some students excel on the SAT but not so much on the ACT and vise versa. Take a practice test of each and analyze which test format better fits your learning style.

2. Take practice tests

This is not like your average midterm exam. You cannot simply review and memorize the material taught in the last few sections of the textbook. Instead, it will be helpful to become familiar with the test format. The time constraints for each section and the question carefully worded to require critical thinking, are pretty unique to standardized testing. Knowing what to expect is half the battle.

3. If possible, use test prep services

Educational centers like Princeton Review and Kaplan offer courses to help prepare students for the SATs or ACTs. These classes can review material that commonly appears on these tests. They also provide strategies on how to deduce the correct answer. If this option is financially viable, I highly suggest taking advantage of it. If not, don’t fret. There are books that you can rent or buy that cover the same material as these courses. There are online resources available, as well! See what services your school offers to help students prepare for these tests. Sometimes, they incorporate practice tests and tips into curriculum or host test review sessions after school hours.

4. Take care of yourself

At the end of the day, you can spend endless hours preparing for these tests, but it means nothing if you are not well rested. Getting enough sleep and eating a good meal before the exam is key to full brainpower and your ability to focus. Also, remember that it is not the end of the world. If you feel too stressed, you may sabotage your own ability to succeed. As always, remind yourself that this test score does not define you.

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