Follow as many of these test-taking tips as you can, and you will greatly improve your ability to remain calm, collected, and focused during the test. Here’s what you should do before and during the test to manage your stress level and to ensure you’ll achieve the best score possible.
Before Taking the Test…
- Study up. Clearly everyone needs to prep with a professional tutor. There is too much at stake and too much competition today not to do your very best. A tutor will help you improve your vocabulary, reading comprehension, and will also warm up your math skills. If you want to ‘try it once on your own,’ that’s fine, but the sooner you start prepping for real, the higher your eventual score will be.
- Practice, practice, practice. Taking practice tests helps you set expectations, gain confidence, and improve your performance. Biltmore Tutoring proctors real, previously released practice tests, under actual conditions, for our students – and then provides scores and diagnostics to indicate progress.
- Get it together. The day before the test, organize the things you’ll bring to the test center. This includes your test admission ticket, ID, several sharpened pencils, erasers, a watch, and a calculator with fresh batteries. The evening before the test? Don’t study – you’ve already done your prep. Go to the movies instead.
- Get some rest. Get at least eight hours of sleep the night before the test. This will help you arrive at the test center rested and alert. No stress allowed!
On Test Day
- Eat breakfast and bring snacks. A good breakfast, including some protein, will keep your energy level even, and prevent you from getting distracted by hunger pangs. Bring a healthy snack, such as a protein bar or sandwich, to eat during the break.
- Wear comfy clothes. Forget about fashion on test day. Wear layers so you can easily adapt if the room temperature changes or is just simply not right. You’re going to be testing at a local high school, probably. Do you trust the janitor to set the thermostat correctly on a Saturday? Me, neither. Chances are, you’re either going to cook or freeze and you need to be able to adapt to that.
- Get there early. If you know you will arrive at least 15 minutes before the official start time, you won’t worry about being late. This is one more way to reduce your stress.
- Choose your seat. Find a seat away from the door and near the back of the room to avoid distractions. If possible, avoid sitting near air conditioning or heating vents and pencil sharpeners. Oh, and if you see a kid who is coughing or looks like he or she might be a “pencil tapper,” move somewhere else.
During the Test
- Read the directions. Yeah, yeah. This sounds so simple, but lots of students don’t take the time to do this. You should have your timing down from working with a tutor, but a quick refresh on how much time you have and how many questions you have to complete won’t hurt.
- Read the questions carefully. Before marking any answer, read the question carefully to be sure you understand what is being asked. For example, are you supposed to pick the one that belongs or the one that doesn’t belong?
- Answer easier questions first. We call this the ‘two-pass strategy,’ and it generally works the best on math sections. Get the questions you’re sure about out of the way first, even if it means skipping some questions and coming back to them. This takes discipline, especially since ‘easier questions’ might be the stuff you did in class last week and not necessarily the material that you learned in eighth grade!
- Don’t spend too much time on any one question. If you have narrowed down the answer to a couple of choices, circle the question and come back to it with fresh eyes after you’ve answered other questions. Mark up your test booklet. We’ll show you how to do this.
- Don’t guess blindly. If you can eliminate even one choice, your chance of choosing the right answer is much higher. The goal is to get through all of the test questions and offer up a good attempt at each question.
- Work it out on paper. Don’t be afraid to use your test booklet as scratch paper. A clean test booklet equals a poor score, and you can take that to the bank.
- Breathe. If you get nervous during the test, do some deep breathing to calm yourself. Inhale, count to three, and then exhale, repeat about five times. Remember, there are plenty of test dates on the calendar and no reason to stress about this one.
- Use all the time. If you finish a section before time is up, use the extra time to proofread and check your answers.