It’s Finals Week. (Give or take a week in either direction.) Or maybe you are taking those standardized SATs and ACTs, again, trying to boost your scores and make yourself a more attractive candidate to the college of your choice. Either way, we feel for you. And we are here for you.
1. Be Prepared
If you are allowed a calculator on the exam, make sure it is an approved calculator. Go to the official testing website and double check. One student was told his sophisticated graphing calculator was a no.
2. Formulas are your friends
Some tests will provide math formulas. Some will not. (ACT does not provide math formulas.) There is nothing more stressful than suddenly forgetting a formula. Who needs that?
3. The week before the test
If the testing facility is new to you, drive or otherwise get to the location the week before the test. That avoids getting lost, detours, being late, etc. More unneeded stress.
4. The evening before the test (or, Test Eve)
Do not go to a prom the night before. (It’s happened.) Organize everything you will need: Fresh batteries. Photo ID. Pencils. Non-digital watch. Your admission ticket. Get a good night sleep. Remind yourself that you are well-prepared for the test. You got this!
5. Test Day
Be confident in your abilities. You worked hard! If there isn’t assigned seating, choose a good seat that has ample lighting.
Insider Tip: If you are someone who gets distracted by students who finish early, sit in the front row so you won’t notice them. One of my students always sits in the front for standardized tests — she says it really helps her focus.
Don’t get stuck on one problem. Do the ones you know first. Leave longer, harder problems to the end. (But make sure you mark your test booklet to find them easily later.) Completing the easier questions first will boost your confidence to tackle the more difficult ones.
Brain freeze? Mind gone blank? Start writing. Sometimes writing a math problem in your own hand can jog your brain into thinking of the next step. Are reading a boring passage — as so many of them are — try shifting positions. Write something, underline passages, make notes, something to keep your mind from wandering. Take the breaks that are offered.
Worst case scenario: Anxiety got the better of you, and you think you did poorly on the exam. Guess what? Most standardized tests allow you to cancel your scores within a few days of taking the test. It is not ideal, but it is good to know this in advance. Remember – you can always take the test again!