Along with the other parts of college applications, everyone knows that preparing for college assessment exams can be particularly stressful. Although there are many ways to study and prepare beforehand, there are also many unknowns. If you are a high school student in this situation, you may worry that on test day you will not be prepared, fail to remember what you studied, or misuse your time. Even for students that study extensively, there can always be the worry of poor test performance.

Some amount of stress in anticipation of any large test is natural, and if not too overwhelming can help motivate you to study and do the best you can. However, too much worry can be detrimental to your test performance. Furthermore, excessive stress may also be an indication that you have not taken the time to prepare and manage time sufficiently before test day.

Ideally, you want to learn to manage time so that it works to your advantage, rather than be an obstacle to your goals. This process should start during, or even before, the period of time when you prepare for the SAT or ACT. Some tips:

  • Identify the study materials and tools you will use, and if you will study alone, with friends, educators, or tutors
  • Schedule the calendar dates you have to study, and develop a good weekly or daily routine that works for you
  • Determine what time of day and duration of time is best for you, and minimize distractions such as hunger, noise, and phone messages
  • Break up your calendar schedule into periods such as initial studying, preliminary assessment, preparation for remaining areas of difficulty, and preparation before test day
  • Review how much time you spend studying each week, as well as other obligations on your calendar, and adjust accordingly for more effective use of time the following week
  • Make study sheets and summarize information in ways useful for you
  • Assess how prepared you are by taking preliminary or practice tests, or analyzing your score patterns
  • Understand the format and rules of the test, how much time to spend on each question, what to do on difficult questions, etc.
  • Eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and take time for other things in your life besides studying

These time management tips can help you feel more prepared and confident when test day finally approaches. One way to think about this approach is as an investment for the future. Weeks before taking the SAT or ACT, the test may be far from your mind, and you and your friends may not seem very worried about it. But as soon as it finally approaches, you may quickly find yourself worrying, cramming, and feeling unprepared.

Instead, it is more effective to take the approach of studying in the beginning – all along – even if it feels like an unnecessary chore at the time. What may surprise you is that as soon as the test day comes along, you will now feel more confident and prepared. In short, expending effort before the test can make the work easier at the end.

Some final tips for test day – try studying all your material the day before the test and take a practice test in the morning, but make sure you get to sleep on time. Get up early enough on test day to eat and feel refreshed, and also spend some time reviewing a summary of your study notes.

Of course, once the test begins, there is no more time to worry about what you did or could have done beforehand. Hopefully at this point you will be prepared and can focus to do your very best. Just make sure you remember one more thing: RELAX.

Good luck!


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