Many high school seniors will be taking the first SAT exam of the year in less than two weeks. While some students may easily ace standardized tests, others encounter some challenges, especially with test anxiety. Common approaches for SAT and ACT preparation include enrolling in a test prep class, studying one-on-one with a professional tutor, or students will often try to go it alone with a study guide at their side. While all of these options may help students master the format and content of the exams, the degree to which these test prep methods can alleviate test anxiety vary.
One of the ways that students can lessen their anxiety about a SAT/ACT, is to “redefine the day.” Right now, October 5 is a date that some students are dreading because of its association with the SAT, something quite negative in their minds. When students have something special, and out of the ordinary planned for after the exam, all of a sudden, the date when the student is taking the SAT takes on a whole new meaning. Students’ feelings toward the actual test date change from dread to a mix of apprehension and excitement. In the past, some clients have gone out to dinner at the student’s favorite restaurant, taken shopping trips (very common with mothers and daughters), etc. Students actually look forward to the SAT/ACT date on some level because they know that something very special that does not occur every day will be happening after the test is over. When families have followed this advice in the past, students have reported feeling less anxious about the exam and the test date overall. The “redefining the day” approach to test taking definitely does not eliminate all of the test anxiety, but it does seem to mitigate it and make the actual test taking experience less challenging. At times, I have seen students’ scores go up more than anticipated. Other times, there is not a lot of change as far as scores, but a measurable change in students’ feelings, and for the better.