Test Anxiety and Standardized Testing Prep

With the start of fall comes cooler weather, family holidays, pumpkin pie, and the dreaded season of testing.  It is the time of the year where many students begin preparing for standardized testing.  The pressure of tests like the ACT and SAT cause general anxiety in most test-takers; however, some individuals are debilitated by their anxiety.   One in every eight children and teens experience anxiety that interferes in their ability to function in a day to day setting.  Below are a few ways to help prevent anxiety from interfering with test performance.

1.) Be prepared.

  • Specifically for large tests such as the ACT and SAT it is helpful to study for extended periods of time in small increments rather than cramming the week prior to the test. Although the time spent studying for these exams is dependent on your personal preference most professionals recommend preparing for at least three months prior to taking the SAT/ACT.
  • Study in similar conditions and with similar time constraints. Take practice tests at a desk with a timer. Turn off the television, put away the cell phone, and sit at a desk/ table.

2.) Use test taking strategies.

  • Read the directions and questions carefully.
  • Skip the most difficult questions and return to them later.
  • Manage your time.
  • Formulate your own answer before looking at choices.
  • Look for key words, double negatives, etc.
  • Narrow down answer choices.

3.) Don’t cram right before the test.

  • Cramming before the test can create anxiety and places extra pressure which can make you actually forget more material.

4.) Relax.

  • Take deep breathes and keep your body relaxed.
  • Wear comfortable clothing that you can layer to adjust to the temperature of the testing room.
  • Stay away from other negative or anxiety-prone people the day of the test.

5.) Stick with a healthy lifestyle.

  • Make sure to eat a healthy breakfast.
  • Maintain a healthy exercise routine.
  • Get enough sleep for consecutive days before the test.

6.) Be positive!

  • Keep a positive and confident attitude. There is no benefit to negative thinking and negativity and stress prevent you from performing at your optimal potential. If you become fearful during the test change your focus to the test itself and not the outcome. Lastly, remember this is just a test and there are many other factors that are considered for college entrance.

7.) Seek professional support.

  • If anxiety continues to be an area of concern and you are having difficulties performing you may interested in inquiring about additional support and cognitive-behavioral strategies to help alleviate your level of distress. Psychologists who specialize in anxiety can be found at Palm Beach Behavioral Health and Wellness or online at psychologytoday.com.