Stress. It assaults the calmest of students in the worst of circumstances. Stress is a natural, but not insurmountable, challenge faced by all SAT test-takers. Using a few simple techniques, all students can learn to effectively and efficiently combat stress in all situations.
Strategy 1: Tensing and Relaxing. This strategy is developed and explained in depth in Dr. Paul D. Nolting’s instructional text Math Study Skills Workbook, Your Guide to Reducing Test Anxiety and Improving Study Strategies. When using the tensing and relaxing method, first place feet on the floor, making sure the soles of your shoes are pressing evenly downwards. Then, grip the sides of your chair with your hands. In the tensing stage, simultaneously press down on the floor with your feet and tug up on the bottom of your chair with your hands. Remain in this position for five seconds, then relax. The process may be repeated several times based on necessity.
Strategy 2: Stretching. Stretching is an excellent way to get the blood flowing through your body, bringing additional oxygen to your brain and making you more alert. Additionally, it loosens muscles that have tensed up due to stress, allowing you to relax. Four different stretches can easily be done from your testing seat:
Strategy 3: Deep Breathing. This strategy is pretty self-explanatory. First breathe inward as deeply as possible through your nose, holding your breath for five seconds. Then, breathe outward, expelling as much air as possible through your mouth, making sure to relax your shoulders as your do so.
Strategy 4: Mental Visualization. Lean back in your chair and close your eyes. While taking deep breaths, imagine you are in some relaxing location—for example, the beach. Pretend you are looking out at this imaginary scene, as if you were actually there. Bring your mind away from the test, and focus on every detail of your imaginary place. Hold this concentration for at least half a minute.
Strategy 5: Mental Positivity. Often, students taking an exam such as the SAT begin to doubt their ability as the test begins. Negative thoughts such as “I will never do well” or “I am not prepared for this test” actually hurt your concentration and your performance on the test itself. When you feel yourself begin to think these thoughts, immediately shout, “stop!” in your head. Then, think a particular positive phrase over and over in your head—for example, “I can do well” or “I’ll do great!” Thinking positive thoughts is extremely important in the SAT.
Nolting, Paul D. Math Study Skills Workbook, Your Guide to Reducing Test Anxiety and Improving Study Strategies. N.p.: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000. N.pag. West Virginia University. Web. 22 Dec. 2010. <http://www.wvup.edu/academic/more_test_anxiety_tips.htm>.