In all the testing frenzy that goes on Junior and Senior years, there is a lot of attention that goes intolearning vocab, grammar rules, and math concepts. There is a lot of attention paid to testing strategy, when to guess, how many questions to attempt in order to earn a certain score, and the like.
However, even after mastering all of these topics and strategies, some of you may still struggle to increase your SAT or ACT score. What gives?!
It’s called test anxiety. And nobody talks about it.
It’s not your fault that you might be struggling with this problem. Most test prep programs and tutoring companies use what I like the call the “brute force” method: throw more practice problems and work-for-work’s-sake your way in hopes that you will eventually improve your score.
They don’t realize that psychology is half the battle. And no matter how well you know your stuff, if you are one of the many students affected by test anxiety, then you know first-hand how all the new material you learned just seems to fly out the window the moment the timer starts and the proctor says, “You may begin.”
I see this all the time, and it can take many forms:
- Bright students who second- and third-guess themselves, often changing their correct answers to incorrect choices out of fear,
- Juniors and Seniors feeling so much pressure that they over-analyze themselves to death during a test,
- Students who exhaust so many of their mental resources worrying, that they don’t even finish the section at hand. This happens especially with math-phobic students!
So what can you do if this is you?
Enter Mental Mastery Technique #2: “Page Turn Zen”
You probably agree that if you’re going to give an amazing SAT or ACT performance, you need to calm down. You need to focus. And the best way to do that is simply to be present. In the moment. In your body.
And here’s what you’re going to do to get there:
1) At the beginning of each section of the test, and every time you are about to turn the page (hence the name), STOP.
2) Close your eyes.
3) Take 3 deep breaths.
4) The entire time you are breathing, notice where you feel the breath in your body.
Let’s analyze this a moment, shall we?
1) I like having my students begin each section with a clear head. Thus, I think that starting each section (especially the essay section) with a few seconds of centering activity is ideal.
Sometimes, usually during a math section, students begin to tense up as the problems get increasingly harder. This makes sense: there’s nothing like that very first problem you can’t solve to shake your confidence! That’s why you are going to STOP and get back to reality at every page turn.
2) You want to close your eyes to remind yourself that no one else in the testing room matters. You are the master of your domain and of your trusty pink sweatpants. For the 10 seconds when you do Page Turn Zen, not even the impending test question staring back at you from the page can bite.
3) Taking three deep breaths is about the time it takes the average person to relax for 10 or 12 seconds. If you feel nervous that three breaths will take too much time, then please time it with your iPhone stopwatch in advance of Test Day to assure yourself that you are not using up much more time than this.
You need to take slow breaths to slow down your heart rate, which might be out of control at the moment. You need to take deep breaths to get oxygen to all the cells in your body – especially your brain cells!
4) As you take your three breaths, you are going to focus on the physical sensations you actually feel in your body. As in, do you feel sweat or warmth on your palms? A stretch in the back of your rib cage? A cold tingle on your upper lip as you exhale? A tickle in your nose as you inhale? Try to pinpoint the actual, physical sensations as they occur. Be the curious observer. None of it is “right” or “wrong”, nor does it mean anything.
By keeping your attention singularly on your physical sensations for the 10+ seconds, you are getting back to the present moment, completely eradicating over-analysis and allowing yourself to get back to your natural state: smart, resourceful, quick, and clever.
To get the best results, you are going to want to start practicing this as soon as you can, in every situation that presents itself! Doing math homework? Practice Page Turn Zen before and during your page turns. Doing history homework? Stop and do Page Turn Zen whenever you are turning a page or writing onto the next page of your notebook. Doing practice questions of any sort, for your SAT/ACT prep or even for your Driver’s Ed test? Do Page Turn Zen.
Soon, this practice will be so ingrained that you immediately do it and will not have to think about it. And THAT’s how you end up increasing your score by leaps and bounds and utilizing all the knowledge you’ve collected in that pretty brain of yours. ;)
So, while people pay top dollar for my services, I’m giving you this advice for free, because I’m committed to seeing you get into the college of your dreams. And while this test anxiety tip doesn’t cost you anything, if you found this helpful, please do me a favor and share it with 3 friends.