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Beat the SAT Jitters

Renee Euchner

March 10, 2009

Beat the SAT Jitters

Q: “I get so nervous before a test. What can I do?”

A: “The first time I took the SAT, I was so nervous, I couldn’t even remember what year it was,” says Lindy Robinson, who graduated in 2005 from the Detroit Country Day School in Michigan. “I’m not kidding! My hands began to shake right before time was called, and it was harder for me to write.”

Test jitters affect almost every student at some point. With the SAT looming around every corner, the fall is a particularly vulnerable time. Here’s what some students do to overcome those butterflies.

Learn the test
“Start early. And take the PSAT,” advises Kelsey Daily, a 2005 grad of Columbus East High in Columbus, Indiana.

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“Knowing the format for the SAT/ACT makes the experience much less nerve-wracking because you are comfortable with the setup of the test,” acknowledges Robinson.

Relax before the test
“One thing I learned early is that you have to calm down and relax before a big test or else you will make stupid mistakes. If I just relax, I can focus, and I find that is when I do my best,” says Larry Choate III, a recent grad from Auburn Riverside High in Washington.

Kaleigh Duffy from Deering High in Portland, Maine, adds, “The night before I take the SAT, I just stay in, relax, watch a movie, and try not to think about why I am getting up at 7 a.m. on a perfectly good Saturday morning. Find something to keep yourself entertained that is completely unrelated to the upcoming test.”

Stay focused during the test
“During a test, my mind definitely wanders off. It happens all the time,” reports Charlene Choy, who graduated in 2005 from Radford High in Honolulu. “To force myself back into reality, I literally pinch myself, and afterwards I take a few deep breaths.”

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“I don’t like long tests. If I get really caught up, then I pause for 10 to 20 seconds, close my eyes for a second and try to calm down,” adds Daily.

“I make sure to answer the questions that I am 100 percent positive of first and skip over those I’m not sure of, so as to not dwell on the idea that I’m a complete failure,” advises Duffy. “Once you realize that you’re capable of more than you thought, this will give you the morale boost to keep your confidence going.”

Turn to music
Choate listens to soft music while he studies. “This helps me remember things that I might not have remembered because my favorite music helps me relax.”

Choy substantiates this claim: “Music usually does the job to calm me. I listen to music and play the piano before the test day or the morning of the test.”

Jennifer Nyguen, from Lynbrook High in San Jose, California, relaxes before a test by playing the piano. “I suggest bringing your CD player or iPod with you before taking the test, and listen to music that calms you while waiting in line to be checked in,” assents Robinson.

Bring a talisman
“Bring something that comforts you, such as a small stuffed animal, your favorite picture or your boyfriend/girlfriend’s sweatshirt,” says Robinson. “It reminds you that there are things more important than a test, and that this one test will not, in fact, determine your future.”

Word challenge


ANSWERS: (1) B (2) E (3) A (4) C (5) D

Article reprinted with permission from Next Step Magazine.

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