For all the emphasis in test prep on critical thinking, memorizing formulas and mastering grammar, sometimes making your target score on a standardized test comes down to the little things. The day I took the ACT, I had a terrible cough (this was way back in 2015, don’t worry) that made it pretty hard to focus, and I didn’t do nearly as well as I could have. There wasn’t much I could have done about cold season, but it just goes to show how outside factors can trip you up on test day, even when you’re otherwise prepared. This goes double for students labeled “twice-exceptional”—gifted kids with autism, ADHD, anxiety, or other problems that make them highly sensitive to their environment. If that’s you, or even if you just want to make sure you’re in top form for test day, here are some tips for keeping calm, focused and ready to do your best.
- If you’re nervous or stressed, a good breakfast is the ultimate comfort food. Don’t force down gross “brain food” that you don’t like. Treat yourself with eggs, bacon, fresh fruit, or whatever else will put you in a good mood and give you energy.
- Speaking of comfort, wear comfy clothes in layers. You won’t have itchy seams or tags distracting you, and you can put on or take off layers if the test room is too hot or cold.
- You might be tempted to drink extra coffee. Don’t! Too much caffeine will give you jitters, anxiety and an upset stomach, the last thing you need when you only get one or two bathroom breaks.
- Make sure you take any medication exactly as directed. To do your best, you need to feel your best.
- Take full advantage of the breaks. Hydrate, eat a snack, use the bathroom, and most importantly, rest your brain. Use the time to meditate and relax before taking on the next section of the test.
- You might be able to bring a comfort item, like a worry stone or fidget jewelry, as long as it’s not disruptive to the other test-takers. These can be a great way to relieve boredom, soothe anxiety and help you think.
- Remember, you know this stuff! Think back to times that you’ve done well in school and studied these exact topics. Don’t let the unfamiliar setting stress you out, and just focus on showing what you’ve learned.
So don’t be a goofus on test day. Test prep isn’t just about preparing your reading, writing and math skills; it’s equally important to prepare your mind and body to tackle the test with everything you’ve got. Check off every item on Chariot Learning’s Annotated Test Day Checklist. Going into the testing room rested, fed and relaxed can mean the difference between a good score and a great one.