There’s no doubt about it – the SAT and ACT exams required for college admissions are among the most stressful things your teenager will face in high school. Lots of competition, lots riding on them.
Let’s take a look at some things you can do early on and as the test approaches to help your student overcome some of the stress involved in the exams and prepare to gain the best results possible.
I know of no better way to reduce anxiety about the exams than to prepare for them ahead of time. Just like giving a speech without practicing first, taking one of these 3.5-hour exams without practicing will increase nerves and result in a less-than-optimal performance on test day.
Taking practice SAT and ACT exams is one of the best ways to become familiar with the format and content of the exams, and to then know where to focus to work on weaknesses. Access practice SAT and ACT exams for your teenager and have her take them well ahead of the official test dates.
Tutoring is another excellent way to boost those scores and lower anxiety. Ask your teen’s school if they offer SAT or ACT prep there, or look to other tutoring companies or online learning platforms to assist with this. PrepNow Tutoring is a great source for one-on-one tutoring for the exams.
2| Know the testing center.
Many times students will take the exam at a different high school. If this is the case for your teen, it’s always a great idea for you both to take a drive prior to test day to learn where the testing center is located and how long it takes to get there. Even go inside if you’re able to in order for your teen to be familiar with the landscape.
Stress is often more intense when there are unknowns, and the testing center shouldn’t be one!
3| Collect essential gear before test day.
There’s nothing worse than running out the door for a very important meeting (or exam) and feeling like you’ve forgotten something. Your teenager needs a nice, relaxed morning to start the day, so let’s be sure everything is gathered and ready the night before the test.
- Print and bring the admissions ticket
- Photo ID (make sure it meets the standards of the SAT and ACT to get in)
- No. 2 pencils with erasers
- An approved calculator with fresh batteries (check each website to learn which are acceptable)
- A watch (make sure there’s no alarm)
- Drinks, snacks for break
Stick everything in a bag by the door so there’s no thinking involved in the morning.
4| Relax the day prior.
I cannot stress this enough: the last thing your kid should be doing the day before taking the exam is studying for it. Just don’t have them do it. Contrary to what you might think, this can causes more anxiety in students than anything. Your teen’s as ready and prepared as she’ll be for the exam – nothing done today will change that.
The best thing to do is to help your teen take her mind off of the test. Go to a movie, meet with friends, do something active, read a book.
And then, encourage a reasonable time to get to bed. The test comes quickly the next morning, so an earlier bedtime is a great idea for some solid, restful sleep.
5| Get a healthy, energetic start.
Skip the doughnuts and pastries for breakfast (no one should eat that anyway, right?) and instead opt for something healthy – eggs, bacon and an avocado are delish and will help your kid to keep energy up during the long exam.
And sure, your teenager can have coffee if that’s something she likes. But be careful, though – it’s a diuretic, and even though there’s a lovely boost of energy from the caffeine, there’s also likely going to be an increase in bathroom visits. (And proctors typically won’t let your teen leave the room until designated breaks.)
6| Show up early.
You know where the testing center is and how long it takes to get there. Now get there early – at least by 7:45 am. Your teen will have to wait in line for a bit, so bringing a book or magazine to read to pass the time is a good idea. Or, of course, a smartphone to check Instagram or whatever. Just be sure that your teen knows that the cell phone should be completely off during test time – students have been thrown out of testing rooms for buzzing noises.
And heed my previous advice – do NOT have test prep materials to read at this time! Studying’s done. All that’s left is to take the exam without that extra stress.
7| Do something fun.
After the exam’s over, it might be great to have something fun or relaxing planned with or for your teen. Many parents I know have spa appointments arranged, picnics packed for a restful lunch or a nice dinner planned. Celebrate that your teenager just worked so hard and completed a big step in the college admissions process!
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