It’s normal to be stressed about the SAT or ACT. They are an important part of your college applications! What you don’t want, however, is to be so stressed during the test that you hurt your score. In this article, we’ll go over some tips to help alleviate some of that test-taking anxiety.

1. Bring a Watch

Being worried about time is one of the most common problems students have on standardized tests. And it makes sense! Both tests are designed to evaluate your ability to complete questions under a time constraint, so running out of time is common. What isn’t helpful, though, is being so fixated on time that you end up wasting it! A good watch can help with that. You can’t always count on there being a clock in the testing room easily within eyeshot, so having a watch you can track time with yourself is essential. For students who are especially worried, there are even ACT- and SAT-specific watches that have timers set to the different sections of the tests built in!

2. Sleep Well and Eat Up

Right before a standardized test, there are a few things you do have control over — namely, getting a good night’s sleep and eating breakfast. These may seem obvious, but not sleeping and forgetting to eat are two of the easiest things to do when you are stressed out. Make sure to eat before you leave for the test, and bring a snack and water with you in case you get hungry or thirsty during it. Also, the night before, make sure to eat a big dinner and get off screens early so it’s easier to fall asleep.

3. Don’t Focus on What Other People Are Doing

When you’re stressed during a test, it can be easy to let your mind wander to other students. What page is he on? I didn’t mean to look, but I feel like I’m seeing a lot of B’s on their answer sheet… Should I put more B’s? None of these ponderings will help you! Just focus on what’s in front of you and let the questions take over your focus. And if your mind does wander, don’t beat yourself up about it! Continually focusing on what’s going wrong only makes things worse, so just look ahead at the test in front of you.

4. Breathe

Yes, we’re sure you’ve heard this one before, but seriously, it works! If you are feeling overwhelmed either before or during the test, give yourself a few seconds to close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Timing is important, but we promise slowing down for just a moment will still leave you with plenty of time to complete the test!

5. Just Start!

Staring at a blank test in front of you is when your anxiety can feel the greatest, so just start! You’ll immediately feel better as soon as you get some bubbles filled in. You’ve been preparing for this test for months at this point, so even though you haven’t seen this exact test before, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Just dive in; you’ll feel a lot better once you start seeing questions that remind you of ones you’ve already mastered!

Need additional coaching or tutoring ahead of an SAT or an ACT? Learn more on our Test Prep page, or just contact us!