This week we’re sharing a guest post by Kyle from CollegeDrive where they can give you personal tutoring and college test prep expertise.

This is one of my biggest recommendations for students – if you can get personal support then take advantage of it. It’s the fastest and most effective way to improve your own skills. Sure… you can do it yourself but it’s much easier and faster to get help when you think you need it.

College admissions testing is a big deal. Make sure to take this stuff seriously because it can be one of the most efficient ways to make an average student stand out.


Even for those students who tend to excel on tests, college entrance exams, such as the ACT or SAT, tend to stir up quite a bit of anxiety. While they are not the only factor that an admissions officer uses to determine whether or not to make an acceptance offer, these scores do matter to most schools.

Because of this, many students feel heavy pressure to score well, leading them to feel stressed and overwhelmed. Of course, a small amount of anxiety is natural, but too much can actually get in the way of doing well on a test.

If you’re a student who is looking for ways to maintain a calm and collected mind while preparing for your own entrance exam, here are some practical ways to elevate your level of confidence and preparedness and reduce your stress:

Before Taking Your Admissions Test

Get Familiar With the Exam Structure and Content

Most major admissions tests, including the ACT and SAT, have practice tests online as well as detailed descriptions of the formatting and line of questioning. Knowing what to expect before you go into the test can help soften the natural fear of the unknown, and it also allows you to forge an understanding of what material you need to have a solid grasp on. Additionally, evaluating your practice test score will shed light on what your strengths and weaknesses are in a low-pressure environment. If you have the option of taking either major test, you may want to take a quiz to see whether the ACT or SAT is best for you, as there are a few differences between each test’s content and format.

Explore Test Prep Options

Whether you struggle with tests in general or you’d simply like a supportive boost to help you prepare, there are many avenues to access professional test prep help. Your high school may offer a course, you can consider one-on-one tutoring, or you may find that a classroom-like setting serves your needs the best.

Regardless of the option that suits your particular situation, working with qualified instructors who have experience helping students succeed on entrance exams can help raise confidence and lessen anxiety. They know the ins and outs of how these tests work, which allows them to help build your fundamental knowledge on the necessary subjects as well as give you tailored test-taking strategies you can use on future tests as well.

Create a Calming Study Environment

Where you study can make a big difference on how well you are able to focus. The most effective thing you can do is take steps to minimize distractions before you get started.

To create an atmosphere conducive to studying, here are a few important tips to consider:

A clean space is better. Studies have shown that clutter creates a sense of disorder that can lead to feelings of anxiety. Before studying, taking a few minutes to tidy up the space around you can enhance your focus and your well-being.

Study in a calm environment. Whether it’s bickering siblings in the background or chatty friends stopping by for a visit, unexpected scenarios like these can interfere with your ability to direct your attention to the material you’re preparing to be tested on. Instead, study during a time and at a place you know you won’t be interrupted.

Minimize your own temptations to be distracted. Putting your phone on silent, shutting off the TV, and avoiding listening to music (or only listening to ambient tunes) will prevent your mind from wandering away from your studies.

Implement Effective Study Strategies

There are many tried-and-true study strategies that can enhance your recollection and understanding of the content you’re absorbing. Here are a few to try out:

The spacing effect is a strategy that’s well known among those who study memory and learning. While students are notorious for cramming the night before a test, the ability to recall and comprehend information is actually best when the material is studied incrementally over multiple periods of time. Instead of doing an all-night study session, you’ll fare better if you break up the information into several shorter sessions. This gives your brain time to process and absorb what you’ve just learned.

Participate in a peer study group. Getting together with peers who are just as eager to do well as you are can create a beneficial situation. You can help motivate and encourage each other to stay focused. Similarly, you can also bring your individual strengths to help others, while using others’ areas of expertise to boost the areas you personally need to tighten.

Create a plan. Organizing a clear-cut plan of when you’re going to study specific subjects will help you balance your test preparation with your other responsibilities in a manner that doesn’t leave you feeling behind or overwhelmed.

Incorporate Mindfulness Exercises

Feeling anxious and overwhelmed can inhibit your ability to effectively retain and comprehend information. Mindfulness exercises, such as deep breathing, engaging in guided meditation, and visualizing yourself succeeding, can help your mind calm down, eventually leading to a clearer state that is more conducive to test success. As with any practice, the more you do it, the stronger the benefits will be.

Maintain a Solution-Based Perspective

Avoid thinking in all-or-nothing terms. Telling yourself, “If I don’t get a perfect score, I’ll never get into a good school” will only cloud your mind and your ability to focus on doing your personal best. If you’re really struggling, seek advice from your high school guidance counselor or talk to your parents about finding a test prep instructor. At the end of the day, being resourceful and thinking in terms of solutions will generate much better results than being self-defeating.

Test as Early as Possible

You’re allowed to test for the ACT and SAT more than once, and you’re only required to send in one score. By testing early, especially in your sophomore or junior year of high school, you’ll have ample time to test and see what areas you are doing well in and which ones need work. This will give you plenty of time to create a plan on what areas to study and how to improve your score.

Preparing for the Day of the Test

Pack Necessary Items the Night Before

You don’t want to be frantically looking for your calculator or admissions ticket the day of the test. To make the morning go smoothly, pack everything you’ll need the night before.

Go to Bed Early

Sleep is necessary for your brain to function ideally, so do what you can do ensure you get a good night’s rest before your exam. Feeling groggy and irritable doesn’t lead to the best mindstate for test taking. If you feel anxious and restless the night before, consider doing some relaxation activities, such as deep breathing exercises, to feel more at ease.

Eat a Healthy Breakfast

Eating a healthy breakfast and staying well-hydrated is important to do before you take your test. Low fat protein options are great for energy, and filling fiber-filled options like oatmeal will help sustain you through the exam. Avoid processed food with high amounts of sugar, as these can cause your energy levels to crash rather quickly.

Arrive Early

Worrying about being late creates feelings of anxiety and panic, which won’t help you develop a level, alert mindstate that’s best for taking your exam. Avoid this issue by planning ahead and making sure you arrive to your testing location with enough time to comfortably settle in.

During the Test

Read Each Question Slowly and Carefully

Breathe deep, and read each question carefully. Rushing through can lead you to overlook or misinterpret important information. Instead, go over each question slowly, and evaluate each possible answer. If you truly don’t know the answer during the multiple choice sections, keep in mind there are usually two answers that are clearly incorrect. If you can eliminate those, you have a 50/50 chance of getting it right.

Don’t Pay Attention to Other Students

If other students begin turning in their tests sooner than you, keep in mind that it doesn’t mean they are going to do better. While it’s important to keep an eye on the clock and manage your time well, avoid interpreting other students finishing early as a cue that you need to speed through the rest of your test.

Don’t Get Stuck on Hard Questions

If a question is baffling you, don’t spend too much time glued to it. Move onto other questions, and if you have spare time at the end, go back to the questions you had trouble with and try again. This will help ensure you finish your test, and it will also prevent the one question from creating anxiety that makes you doubt your ability to do well on other questions. Keep a mental note of which questions you struggled with so that you don’t have to search for them again.

Closing Up

Hopefully this information gives you some tactics to help lower your test anxiety. If you make room for proper studying, utilize helpful resources available to you, and do what you can to create a mellow, clear, and refreshed mindstate, you should have no problem obtaining a satisfying score.

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Admissions360, Leo_Fontes,and PXFuel

How To Make College Admissions Tests Less Stressful

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