Remaining cool under pressure

Reduce anxiety and increase confidence for better SAT and ACT scores
August 6, 2012 8:15:04 AM PDT
More than three million college admissions tests are administered each year, making the SAT and the ACT two of the most important exams that a high school student will ever take. In order to perform at their best, students should become familiar with the style and types of questions on the tests, in order to avoid "trap-door answers." In addition, students should boost their reading and vocabulary skills and learn specific process of elimination strategies. Above all, students need to work through as many practice questions and tests as possible in the weeks and months leading up to the actual exam.

Dr. Richard E. Bavaria, Ph.D. and senior vice president for education outreach for Sylvan Learning, offers tips to help students prepare for these important tests:

  • Unlike the SAT, the ACT has no scoring penalty for incorrect answers, so never leave an ACT question blank.
  • On the SAT, by eliminating at least two incorrect answers for every question you're unsure about, you will mathematically beat the odds of the test and raise your score.
  • Since the test's instructions will not change, don't waste time reading the instructions on the day of the test. You should already know them.
  • Never spend too much time on any single question?it's just not worth it. It's better to lose one point on a difficult question than to lose 10 points because you ran out of time on the last part of a section.
  • If you are unsure of a question, circle it and come back to it if time permits.
  • Don't get bogged down on the difficult questions before you have racked up as many points as possible on the easy and medium questions.