This is the third part of three in my series of posts on the Three Pillars for Success on the ACT and SAT. If you haven't read the first and second parts, I recommend doing so before reading this one. (Click here to read the first part and here to read the second part.)
Most students experience incredible pressure during the days and hours leading up to their tests and while they take their SAT or ACT. Many students see these tests as the most important tests that they have ever taken. Many are painfully aware that whether their college dreams become realities depends on how they perform during just a few short hours.
There are a few people who think better under pressure, who become more clear-headed and calm, but these people are rare. For most people, pressure to perform creates anxiety. Some students experience a little bit of anxiety around the SAT or ACT and some experience a lot.
When we feel anxiety, our bodies go into fight-or-flight reactions. Fight-or-flight reactions improve our abilities to run from dangerous situations or to fight off attackers, but fight-or-flight reactions do not help us to think clearly and calmly or to sit still and concentrate. In fact, anxiety suppresses the frontal parts of the brain that are involved with rational thought, concentration, and short-term memory. These are not conducive to scoring well on the SAT or ACT.
The third pillar for succeeding on the ACT or SAT is being calm, collected, and confident on test day. Whether a student has a good day or a bad day when she takes the test depends significantly on her mental state going into and during the test. Even if she has great strategies in place, knows the content really well, and has been scoring well on practice tests, if she is so anxious when she takes the test that she forgets to use her strategies and can't even think clearly, she's unlikely to do nearly as well as she's capable of doing or as well as she did on practice tests.
If a student only sleeps for two hours the night before the test because he's anxious, he is unlikely to score at his best either.
Fortunately, there is a lot that students can do in the weeks, days, and hours before their tests and during their tests to reduce their anxieties and perform at their best.
With all students, I work at least little bit on emotional awareness and management of their emotional states, because even the performance of those rare people who do best under pressure can improve with the techniques that I teach.
With students for whom anxiety is a particular issue, I work on techniques for emotional awareness and management a lot. The amount of time that I spend working on this with a student depends entirely on how much anxiety affects this student’s well-being leading up to the test and performance during the test.
Students being at their best on test days is not a wild card; calm, collected, and confident emotional states while taking their tests is something that students can learn to cultivate.
To discuss your SAT or ACT coaching needs, contact Inspired Test Prep by phone at 206-395-6676 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.