1. Anxiety over tests is normal, and it seems to come from 4 distinct fears:
What will the test be like? What will it cover? What will I feel like taking the test? What will my score be? Science tells us that when you are afraid, you cannot learn.
2. There are very, very few students “born great test takers.” Good students study for tests. If your student doesn’t do some study or practice, chances are, the tests will not go well. Anxiety comes from uncertainty. If you are more certain, then you will reduce your anxiety. Even SOME familiarity reduces uncertainty, and thus anxiety.
3. The trick with most students is to not listen to “fear” talk. Instead, focus on limiting those fears: Practice tests are readily available online and in college offices. Books, tutors, or classes will solve the mystery of what to study. Taking a practice test in a quiet room WITHOUT any disruptions will simulate what a test feels like. A score will be due to ability plus practice, if you don’t make excuses and let fear overwhelm you.
4. Those students who do the best on this test OWN the process. They don’t have to be THREATENED to practice, and they are praised for their efforts not resulting scores. I always ask: Why do you think working toward a good score will help you get where you want to go in life?
5. Studies show that rewards AFTER hard work seem to have a greater effect than bribes or punishment. Rewarding the hard work, not the immediate outcomes, seems to really help a lot of teens.
6. FOCUS means everything in test prep. 15-20 minutes WITHOUT a phone or laptop translates into a lot more than hours of distracted work.
7. Regardless of how a student performs in school, he or she will need to review or learn basic grammar, math, reading, and science/data concepts. Even geniuses prepare for Jeopardy.
8. The trick of effective test prep is to figure out what you don’t know or what you are doing wrong, keep a list, and study whatever you need to STOP making those mistakes. Scores go up when students stop making the same errors, either due to a lack of knowledge, or a mistake in strategy.
9. There are students, of course, with clinical level anxiety, or processing issues that require extra time. However, most students will find that timing gets a lot better after reviewing the information tested and practicing with the actual format.
10. SLEEP deprivation is a huge issue with teens. One study showed that having five nights of less than six hours of sleep triggered a temporary 20-point drop in IQ. Another study showed that sleep deprivation severely inhibits information retrieval.
By: Mauri Artz, J.D. I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist. My advice is based on my empirical work as a test prep specialist for the last 16 years.
Owner, Simple Test Prep, ACTonlinetutoring.com, The Public Tutoring Initiative Founder, The Public Tutoring Initiative, benefit corporation dedicated to bringing high quality test prep to underserved populations; Chosen as top ACT resource for College Summit, the nation’s largest nonprofit serving first generation college entrants,; Top selling ACT educational program to libraries, Launchpad by Playaway, corp; Tutor to students now at all the Ivy Leagues, Stanford, NESCAC, all major state universities; Specializes in good students who are “not good test takers,” anxiety prone students, and student athletes.