When the SAT and ACT Gets You in the Feels

According to the National Foundation for Educational Research, test anxiety affects up to 40% of all students. Some people can handle the stress of taking high-stakes exams. Other people perform poorly simply because they cannot cope with the stress either during the test itself or while preparing for it. 

Here are a few of the feelings that are most commonly associated with the SAT and ACT.

1. Awareness | “Oh man, I have to schedule time to take my SAT…”

If you plan on attending college, then you understand that taking the SAT or ACT is a requirement. You first become aware of this near your Junior year off high school, and probably begin looking into scheduling & preparing for it.

Here’s a few FAQs for someone who is just becoming aware of the SAT or ACT:

Question: Should I take the SAT or ACT?

Answer: If you’re not sure, take them both. (Yes, you can do that & take the best score!)

Question: When is it?

Answer: It’s always on a Sunday or Saturday, and most often held in August & September of your Junior year of high school.

For more details, check out our blog post on SAT/ACT basics.

2. Avoidance | “I’ve got time. I’ll get around to studying…”

Now that you know when the test is, most will put off studying for it. Understand that the SAT and ACT are not like tests you take for individual subjects. They are designed to demonstrate retention of broad core reading, writing, and math skills that will be required in first year college courses. Unless you have exceptional retention, you will likely not have time to master all the required material in a condensed time frame.

TL;DR Don’t procrastinate. Schedule an exact time to start your prep & stick to it.

3. Response | “Ok, I’m actually going to start preparing Tuesday after school.”

The ideal response to test anxiety is to prepare for it. However, many students spend too much time thinking about the threat of taking the test, which impedes their ability to begin taking action. In the beginning, you should just be thinking about when you plan to begin studying. Leave other negative thoughts aside as best you can.

4. Anxiety | “I have so much to cover. There’s not enough time. I’m bad at tests…”

Text anxiety is simply defined by an overly active threat-response triggered by the act of taking a test. In order to be successful, you need to take steps to manage this anxiety. 

Here are a few things you can try to manage anxiety:

  1. Progressive Relaxation: Tense up a group of muscles as you breathe in, then relax them as you breathe out. Work on muscle groups from your legs to your head.
  2. Big Exhales: Skip the muscle tension and just take big deep breaths.
  3. Touch Your Lips: Touching lips provokes a calming sensation. For a bonus, apply lip balm. Your lips might be dry from stress anyway.
  4. Meditate: Meditation where you acknowledge your thoughts of stress and dismiss them for the unnecessary feelings they are might be the best solution. Keep in mind, meditation takes practice. This might not work for everyone.

5. Action | “Ok. Let’s do this…”

Sometimes the best way to tackle prepping for a big test is to just get started with some first steps. We recommend starting with a free practice test to get an idea of what you’re up against. Here are two popular ones:

Next, get some more professional practice with these popular study guides:

Once you’ve put in the study hours, you will take your test. Don’t forget to try the anxiety tips above if you begin feeling pressure on the day-of. Make sure to:

  1. Get plenty of sleep the night before.
  2. Wake up early & shower.
  3. Eat a healthy breakfast

6. Reflection & Regret | “I hope I did okay….”

While some students feel relief after taking the test, others feel worry & regret. However, the time for reflection is best saved for when you see your results. Too often, students worry when there is no need. So wait to see how you did before becoming too overwhelmed with regret. 

SAT & ACT Feelings of Anxiety Are Good

If you are feeling anxious about a big test, it’s primarily because you care about doing well. This is a sign that you have the drive necessary to succeed academically. All you need to do is focus your attention on the steps to prepare yourself both mentally and physically.

After you get a PERFECT SCORE on your SAT and/or ACT, be sure to connect with us @ecampusdotcom on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook for more resources, tips, and some great giveaways! And when it’s time for textbooks, eCampus.com has you covered for all your course material needs at savings up to 90%!