Knowing that your performance on the SAT or ACT will be scrutinized by college admissions officers, it's perfectly natural for you to feel nervous when the actual day arrives. It's a lot like being the quarterback in the most important game of the year—the stakes are high and you need to keep your cool and not let your nervousness cause you to choke.
It may help to remind yourself that your scores are only one factor of many that the admissions officers will take into account. If you are a junior or are taking the test early in your senior year, you will also be able to take the test again if necessary.
The following steps are designed to help you stay calm and think clearly on test day. And doing so will give you the best chance of achieving a high score.
It is natural for you to be nervous when the test first starts, but try to remain focused. Neither sprint through the test nor lag behind. Keeping with the race analogy, pace yourself. If you speed through the exam, you will make careless errors. But if you use too many minutes on each question, you won't be able to finish within the allotted time period. The best way to know how fast you can go is to take a practice exam.
Watch the clock. Every year countless students get caught up in the exam and simply forget to glace at the time. When the proctor calls out that there are five minutes remaining, these students suddenly panic because they realize they still have half the section to complete. To avoid this nasty surprise, make a note of the finish time for each section so you can pace yourself and leave enough time to get to all the questions.
Read all questions carefully and completely. Don't start figuring out the answer until you have all the information. After you have found what you believe to be the correct answer, look at the other choices too. There may be a better answer. The test makers are tricky, and they want you to think things through. An answer by itself may be true, but it still may not be the correct answer to the question. Remember, your job is often to select the BEST answer.
Gen and Kelly Tanabe
Founders of SuperCollege and authors of 13 books on college planning.
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