Dispatches from the Test Prep Team: Non-Test Testing Skills

Dispatches from the Test Prep Team is a series of posts on the ESC blog intended to help you improve your test prep skills!  This week, we will focus on non-test testing skills.

So, you’ve spent hours upon hours memorizing vocabulary words and grammar rules. You’ve completed countless practice tests, attended tutoring sessions, and sharpened all of your #2 pencils. But yet, your scores on exercises and practice tests always seem much higher than your scores on the official test.

Why does this happen? It’s time to review your non-test testing skills and see if you’ve forgotten to prepare for these often overlooked or ignored issues.

1. Exhaustion. Because you took a long flight the day before or stayed up late to study just a little bit more, you didn’t get enough sleep. Now, thinking feels like wading through mud as you struggle to stay awake. Even the best prepared student can’t get a good score if they’re cognitively impaired and can barely read the answers on the page! Never underestimate the importance of getting proper rest. To avoid this, make sure you give yourself an early bedtime. The extra time spent studying is not nearly as valuable as being well-rested!

2. Anxiety. Sometimes you can’t fall asleep because you’re too nervous. Or perhaps you can’t seem to focus on the questions. You could run out of time on the reading, and you can only afford to make 3 mistakes before getting lower than a 33, and you have no idea what to write about for this essay… Stop! Panicking never, ever, helps. It’s normal to be a little nervous, but test anxiety will make you forget everything you’ve spent so much time learning. The solution is to live in the moment: do not worry about what comes next but instead focus on trying to answer as many questions as you can correctly and following the rules you’ve learning. Some students also find meditation or yoga to be helpful relaxation tools if done before the test. Whatever helps you relax may vary, but don’t let anxiety rob you of a high score.

3. Forgetfulness. Sometimes panic can make you forget the strategies you’ve learned. But sometimes, you just forget them on your own or fail to use them. Techniques you’ve learned from your SES instructors won’t help if you don’t or can’t utilize them! You end up falling back into your old, counterproductive habits. How to avoid this? Incorporate these techniques into your practice! Just as militaries across the world drill on techniques, so should you. Don’t take shortcuts during your practice or tell yourself that you’ll use them “when you take the real test.”

Hopefully, these strategies will help you avoid mistakes, despite your best intentions, when taking the ACT or SAT. Good luck!