How to Slay on Test Day
Call me dramatic but I feel like as a junior, standardized tests have risen from obscurity to come crashing down with the sole purpose of drowning me. From AP tests to SAT subject tests to the ACT, my stress and anxiety levels have skyrocketed.
And, I’m normally pretty good with stress. Throw any test or even a final at me–easy. But once you bring it up to the national scale it’s like I turn into putty. I can’t concentrate–I can only think about how important the test is instead of focusing on the test itself, my heart beats like it thinks I’m running. I get lightheaded, and I’m weighing the odds of me passing out–all while my brain should be spouting out test answers. However, I finally figured out how to manage my standardized test stress with my ACT. Obviously, I still got some nerves, let’s be realistic here, but it didn’t hinder my ability to think and perform– it enhanced it.
Here’s what I did the 24 hours before my ACT:
- Review for the ACT. I know people always say to relax the night before, but I think that’d stress me out even more: it all depends on the person. Now, I was not hardcore cramming information for eight hours. Rather, I was reviewing strategies and the types of problems I typically got wrong, especially if they were the ones I missed based on content.
- Pack your bag. There’s nothing worse than frantically gathering everything the morning of and forgetting something. Get everything you need together: pencils, erasers, ID, admission ticket, water, snacks, etc. Snacks are super important, and I’m not just saying that because I love food. They play a vital role in performance. I myself packed a Larabar because they’re easy to eat, don’t cause a sugar crash, and are high in healthy fat to keep me filled. This is coming from a girl with a speedy metabolism, so Larabars do their job pretty well. In general, you want to choose a snack that has simple carbs that are healthy (like fruits and veggies not like white bread and croissants: you know the difference). The snack should also be high in healthy fat or protein to help fill you up.
- Yoga and Meditation. I didn’t want to work out the day right before the ACT because being sore during the test seemed like it’d be both annoying and very uncomfortable. So, to still be active and to soothe my nerves I did yoga and I meditated. This wasn’t something I’d ever done before a test but let me tell you, this stuff works. I was so calm by the end of the session because I was at peace with myself and my situation going into the test. It was also great at relieving stress by giving me time to focus on only the present and not the future, aka the test I’d been preparing so long for.
- Sleep early. A no brainer but too important not to include. I did the meditation right before I went to bed and it got me into a sleepy mood, so I was able to sleep pretty quickly after hitting the mattress (not trying to flex or anything but I went to bed at 10:15–I don’t think I have gone to bed that early since sixth grade).
The morning of the big day:
- I woke up at 6:30; I had to get to the testing center by 8. Get up at least an hour before the test, maybe even more because it gives you time to mentally prepare yourself while giving your body and brain time to wake up. It may seem counterintuitive to wake up early instead of sleeping in, but I’ve found that if I try to do anything right after waking up, my brain is still groggy.
- Yoga and Meditation. Surprise, surprise! I did a quick 10 minutes to ease the new bout of nerves that came up. Wow, at this rate, I might as well start calling myself a yogi.
- Eat a good breakfast. You don’t want to be hungry during your test, do you? Good choices include whole-wheat bread and scrambled eggs, oatmeal, etc. I had a bowl of oatmeal with milk (it was whole milk so there was more fat which in this case helped keep me satiated for longer), boiled eggs, fish sticks, and fruit and that kept me alert, deterring my hunger until break time.
- Get there early. Mental preparation is everything. Especially if you’re testing in a school that isn’t yours; you need time to get acclimated to your surroundings and get your brain into test mode.
- Kill it because you’ve been working so hard.
I wouldn’t wish the trial and error I had to go through on anyone, so hopefully, you guys can take away at least one strategy that you can implement if you, like me, become a complete trainwreck on test day. Don’t overthink it and just let your brain do its thing because everything will turn out alright :).