This Is Only a Test…

(Or, How to Stop Worrying and Love the SAT)

guest written by Barbara Bellisi of the CollegeBound Network

I don’t consider myself old, but since I have taken the SAT almost half a lifetime ago (gulp!), I like to consider myself wise — at least when it comes to standardized testing. Combine that wisdom with a few years’ teaching experience and I discovered that — voila! — I was a natural SAT tutor.

During my training, I had to take a practice SAT. Wow! Either the test got easier or I got a whole lot smarter. OK, so maybe I didn’t have the stress that you college-bounders  have when I was filling out those little circles — after all, my college degree is already framed and hanging nicely on a wall — but I can still understand the pressure of a ticking clock and a dull #2 pencil.

Those algebraic equations won’t solve themselves, and someone’s got to fill in the blank with the correct vocabulary word, right? That’s why you’ve got to add a little dose of humor to your test-taking strategy. That’s right, future valedictorians and NMSQT finalists — I’m telling YOU that it’s OK to look at the PSAT, the SAT, the ACT, and any other hellish acronym directly in the face and give it a big LOL.

Need some help in finding the funny? Then put down the prep books and chew on some of these test-taking tips instead of that dirty pencil eraser:

1 – Hone your concentration skills.
There are two major problems with any standardized test: 1) It is long, and 2) It is boring. Practice concentrating at home by working on one assignment at a time instead of skipping around between subjects. Too tired? Then veg out in front of the TV for a half an hour, but no flipping around the channels. Bonus points if you can watch C-SPAN for a full 20 minutes without falling asleep.

2 – Make some noise.
Do you need complete silence when doing your homework? Break yourself out of that silly habit, because you have a better chance of getting a perfect score on the SAT than you do of getting a quiet testing room. There will always be a student who sniffles throughout the entire test, and there will always be a proctor who doesn’t know how to whisper. And, if you’re (un)lucky like I was, you might be able to hear the football team in all its grunting glory practice right outside your window. Woo hoo!

3 – Perfect your circle-filling ability.
Learn to fill in those answer circles with no more than three swipes of your #2 pencil. Any more and you’re just wasting precious time — time that is better spent erasing those circles once you’ve realized you skipped a row on your answer sheet.

4 – Don’t get too wrapped up in the reading comprehension.
Yes, every once in a while, a really interesting passage will appear on a standardized test. But this is the SAT, not a leisurely Sunday morning with the newspaper. Standardized tests are not written for your personal enjoyment; get through those reading sections, answer the questions, and be done with it.

And some tips for the day of the test:

Don’t mess with breakfast. I don’t care if butterflies are playing Marco Polo in your stomach. Scarf down a granola bar before you sit for the test. Otherwise, the audible growls coming from your stomach later will cause you to lose focus.

Layer your clothing. Some people get the chills when they get nervous. Other people have hot flashes. All bets are off for what will happen to you on the day of the test, so prepare for anything by wearing several layers. If you need to remove a piece of clothing, do so quickly and quietly — this is the SAT, not a Vegas show.

Don’t make plans for after the test. Instead, go home and crash on your bed, the couch, or in your little brother or sister’s wading pool. Stay there for a while. You’ve earned it.

About the author: Barbara Bellesi is a blogger at The CollegeBound Network. Follow CBN on Twitter @CollegeBoundNet.

One Response to This Is Only a Test…
  1. John

    Great post, Barbara! We would love to have you back for another guest post someday soon. Thanks again.

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