You’re not sure what’s harder: answering tricky multiple choice questions, or waiting for this nerve wracking test to just start already – while your bladder giggles at your brain. It occurs to you that you should probably go to the restroom – like, now. Unfortunately, you don’t know where the restroom is…
Standardized tests, such as the SAT I Reasoning Test and the ACT, are very stressful events that students avoid as much as possible. These tests last for hours, with a few short breaks spread throughout the ordeal. Picking the right test site for you can go a long way in reducing the amount of brainpower that is taken away from focusing on the test. The general answer to what is the best test site is that it’s the one that is most comfortable for you. The following five factors will help you get yourself and your test site on the same team.
- Know Thy Test Center
Avoid new places at which you have to deal with the stress of looking for the right room and knowing where the restrooms are. Knowing where everything is located in case of sudden changes in bladder hymns and bowel movements is highly recommended. The way around this is to take the test at your own school, if possible, or walk around the test site several times on several different occasions to familiarize yourself with the campus.
- Sleep Tight and Rest Right
Get a good night’s sleep the night before the test. Having a rested and refreshed mind is much better than being a caffeine zombie. The bridge between despair and hope can be as simple as a night of sleep. Avoid too much caffeine the evening before the test. For some people, having high amounts of caffeine can make their sleep less restful. In the morning, avoid stimulants such as too much coffee or strong energy drinks. You’re nervous enough as it is; no need to increase the voltage.
- Oh, No! It’s You Again!
Pick a test site where you won’t see your fellow students, since this reduces anxiety that you may already have regarding how you measure up to them in other academic matters. It’s easy to be intimidated by fellow classmates whom you know have better grades and scores than you do. Taking a test among strangers has the added benefit of the fact that you probably won’t ever see these people again.
- Bring Snacks
Some people get hungry when they are nervous. Brain activity, especially intense thinking, requires energy. Your brain likes to eat sugar, so you might suddenly find your stomach growling during the test. Bring a few snacks in case you need to refuel.
- Rulers Don’t Measure Volume
Know deeply in your heart that standardized tests only measure a certain type of smarts, not how you will do in other aspects of academics and life. Volume is a measure of the space that is within a three-dimensional area. The volume of a rectangle is calculated by multiplying its length times its width times its height. Three measures are needed. How you do on standardized tests only measures one dimension of you. It cannot measure your ability to be creative, to improvise, to be resilient, to build things and fix broken things, to lead teams, and to give warm hugs.
By David H. Nguyen, Ph.D.
The author would like to acknowledge fellow ThinkTank Learning consultants, Taylor Chiem, Meilin Obinata, and Justin Wang, for their input on this topic.