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Self-care Tips for a Stress-free SAT/ACT: Don’t Sweat It

Many students put too much pressure on themselves before a test — remember that it’s only a test

Stress and anxiety before a test is common, especially a test such as the SAT or ACT. The more significant the test, the more stress. Stress is your body and brain’s pressure response. While some stress can keep you focused on your exam, too much stress can hinder your performance.


If you are someone who experiences stress before an exam, don’t worry because you’re not alone. Many people get stressed before a significant exam, but don’t sweat it — there are ways to combat that stress. This article will dive into the ways you can de-stress before a test.


Stress Can Affect Test Scores

Many studies link stress and test scores. Stress increases cortisol levels in the brain. Here are some interesting findings from the Harvard Graduate School of Education on tests and stress bias:

  • Students had 15% more cortisol on test days than average.

  • Stress and its effect on the brain may be why children from lower-income families fare worse on tests.

  • Children are affected by standardized testing — some see their cortisol levels spike, which indicates stress on the brain, and some see their levels drop, indicating disengagement from the test.

  • Boys' cortisol levels were more affected by standardized testing than girls.

The more you can alleviate stress before an exam, the better. Stress affects everyone differently, and some people thrive on it, but the general rule is that less stress equals better test performance.


We know how stressful exams and studying can be for a young student. InHouse Test Prep teaches students to mitigate stress when studying and taking exams. To learn more about how InHouse Test Prep can help you or your child reduce the stress of exams, click the link below.





Test Scores Are Not a Measure of Future Success, Intelligence or Self-worth

Remember, exams test your knowledge on particular subjects. They do not measure present or future success. If you do poorly or not as well as you’d hoped, the world will keep spinning. SATs and ACTs are not designed to be a gauge of how the rest of your life will turn out.


There are plenty of roads to success, and very few of them depend on the scores of these tests. SAT and ACT scores are simply ways colleges and universities can compare students for acceptance. They are not a measure of your self-worth.


Lower scores do not mean you’re stupid or less than anyone else. People are different, and everyone’s brains work uniquely. Written testing is not everyone’s strength. Admissions officers know this, which is why test scores aren’t everything.



Test Scores Aren't The Only Factor

Keep in mind that just because you didn’t ace the SAT or ACT doesn’t mean you won’t get into the school of your choice. Admissions departments look at many different factors when deciding who to take, with SAT and ACT scores being only one part. Colleges are looking at four elements:

  1. Grades

  2. Course rigor

  3. Recommendations

  4. Test scores

Even though colleges weigh these factors differently, test scores are never the most important. Colleges tend to put the most importance on grades and course rigor.



Keep Perspective

It’s important to keep perspective when studying for and taking the SAT and ACT. Adding more stress and pressure to an already stressful situation will do more harm than good. Just because you didn’t do as well on your test as you’d hoped doesn’t mean your chosen colleges won’t accept you. Alternatively, if you aced the test, that doesn’t entitle you to automatic admission. The door swings both ways.


Putting things in perspective helps reduce stress since the tests can be retaken. Colleges have different rules about multiple test scores, but they all allow them. Some colleges require you to submit all your scores, and others look at only your best ones.


If you don’t score as well as you would have liked, there are always other options. While getting high test marks may seem like the only path to college or life success, they are hardly the only factor. If you have been studying and preparing as well as possible, then do your best and let the chips fall where they may. Besides, you can always retake the test.



What To Do Before an Exam

Now that you are in the right headspace, are calm and relaxed, and you’ve studied to the best of your ability, what’s next? You’re ready, but you're still jittery. Here are some tips to help you de-stress before your exam and overcome test anxiety:

  • Skip the cram session: Don’t cram before a test; get a good night's sleep instead.

  • Exercise: Get outside, get some fresh air and move your body.

  • Meditate: Meditation is a great way to clear your mind before a test — simply find a comfortable place to sit, close your eyes and clear your mind.

  • Aromatherapy: A few drops of sage, peppermint or rosemary help calm the nerves.

  • Get everything ready: Pre-pack everything you will need for your test, and take extra of everything. Give yourself some peace of mind knowing if your pencil breaks, you’re going to be OK.

  • Skim your notes: You should know your material by now; just do a once-over before bed or before the exam to get the juices flowing.

  • Do your best: If you have been studying and preparing correctly, you have done all you can do.

Relax, breathe and give it your best effort. At the end of the day, if you can look in the mirror and say you’ve done your best, you can be proud.



Final Thoughts

Test anxiety is a common issue for students before taking the SAT and ACT. Most of it is self-induced by thinking this test means more to their future than it does. While doing well on these tests is one aspect of being accepted to a college or university, it is not the only factor.


Students and parents need to keep their perspective on the outcomes of this test not to put undue pressure on themselves or their children. Besides, with proper studying and preparation, they will simply do their best, and that will be good enough.


To ensure you are as prepared as possible, enlist the help of InHouse Test Prep. We have been helping students prepare for the SATs and ACTs for over 20 years. InHouse Test Prep does more than just prepare you for the numbers and dates on the exam — we teach you the little things like how to de-stress when studying or taking the test. To learn more about all the ways InHouse Test Prep can help you or your child be best prepared for the SAT or ACT, click the link below.



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