We’ve already given some pointers on avoiding test-day anxiety, but the number one way to avoid such jitters is to be prepared for the test. Here are the three best tricks we have for getting started on a long-term study plan and avoiding tomorrow’s anxiety.
1. Don’t Procrastinate
Everybody procrastinates, since everyone would rather put off today’s problems until tomorrow. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Wrong. The longer you put off studying for the test, the more work you’ll have to do at a later date. This means that you’re actually creating more stress for the future than you would otherwise handle in the present, because the amount of stress you’ll have the week before the test will be infinitely greater than the total amount you would have had over the months leading up to the test if you were to attack the test in small pieces instead of all at once…which leads us to Tip #2.
2. Make a Study Plan Today
This is probably the most beneficial piece of advice we have. Don’t try to go into test preparation blindly—rather, take a practice test, and see what you need to study. Then, make a plan for how to study it. Keep track of long term projects, such as memorizing and learning vocabulary words, and shorter ones, such as brushing up on grammar rules. Try to practice a couple hours a week at minimum, and expand the amount of time you need to study as the test approaches.
3. Make Studying Fun
To be frank, there is nothing fun about studying for exams like the ACT or SAT. However, you can motivate yourself to study by making your brain associate it with something else fun. Get in the habit of rewarding yourself after a lesson by doing an activity you like, preferably something you wouldn’t normally get to do, something that is a treat for you. Treat yourself, because you deserve it: after all, you’ve shown initiative in preparing for a successful future by not procrastinating. In doing so, you’re tricking your brain into associating something you don’t want to do (SAT prep) with something you do want to do.
Food can be a great motivator too. I (in my tutoring career) once had a student whose mother bought him his favorite snack food before every lesson with me, thus triggering in his brain that studying for the SAT meant getting his favorite food. As a result, he was more motivated to study because studying had an immediate upside instead of just the usual boring long-term upside of a perfect score. Little tricks like this work wonders, which is why I champion them so much.
In the future, we’ll give some more pointers about what sorts of steps should be included in your study plan , but for now, just remember our first tip—don’t procrastinate. Start your studying today by taking a practice SAT test and beginning to learn vocabulary. Also, remember, studying for the test should be a marathon, not a sprint. If you can wrap your brain around that fact—that mastering the test will take a seemingly interminable amount of time and cannot be crammed for—you’ll already be more relaxed about the process than your friends who don’t understand that.
These key SAT words are expertly identified by Sentia tutors
Procrastination: the act of putting off or delaying something that requires immediate attention
Beneficial: helpful, useful
Champion: support militantly
Interminable: monotonously continued or unceasing