With so much riding on the outcome of standardized tests, it’s easy to see how
anxiety could stand between a good student and a good score. It’s important to
prepare for the SAT and ACT by studying, but equally important is knowing
how to recognize and neutralize test anxiety.
What is test anxiety?
Test anxiety is one form of social anxiety wherein a person has negative physical
and mental reactions to tests. Test anxiety is more than just having butterflies in
your stomach; a little nervousness is normal. Students suffering from test anxiety
may experience nausea, sweating, hyperventilation, or an insurmountable mental
block. Needless to say, this is the last thing students should have to deal with on test
What can I do about it?
The good news is that there are many ways to deal with and overcome test anxiety.
The most suggested method is exposure therapy. For you, this means practicing
taking the test in a controlled environment. You become familiar with the test itself
and with what to expect while taking the test. The benefit is two fold: you become
accustomed to directions and structure of the exam and you also become comfortable
in a test-taking environment. Exposure therapy is the long-term solution. In the short
term, try to relax your body and mind as you study. Take deep breaths. Roll your
shoulders to loosen your muscles. Repeat a short affirmation, like “I can do this,”
to stay positive and keep your mind focused.
Finally, remember that this isn’t your last or only chance. Unlike many other tests,
you can always take the SAT and ACT again.