Improve Standardized Test Scores
by Jeannette Webb
It’s the test taking time of year. Students all over the country are preparing for the SAT, ACT, AP and SAT Subject tests. You can choose to hate them, but they are a part of life for the college-bound student and are critical in the college application process.
How your student feels during a test can have a great effect on his score.
Here are a few techniques to help your child do their best.
Hard, physical exercise in the months of preparation leading up to the test can help maintain a healthy sleep pattern and keep his head clear so he can study more effectively.
When your child takes practice tests (and she should be taking lots of them at home), start them at the time the real test will start with exactly the same breaks. This prepares the body to focus hard at a specific time.
If possible, visit the testing site ahead of time to see if their facilities (namely desks) fit your student. This is especially important if you have a left-handed child! Make sure the room will be quiet on test day.
At least several weeks before the test, determine how early your child will need to get up in order to get ready and arrive at the test site on time. Give yourself time to be there about thirty minutes earlier than recommended so that you have some flex room in case something happens (like a flat tire or traffic problems) on the way.
Determine how much sleep your student needs to function optimally. At least two weeks out from the test, have them start going to bed and getting up at the same times that will be required on testing day. Be sure that she gets plenty of sleep the two nights before the test.
If anxiety is a real problem for him and he can’t sleep the night before an important test, he might try taking one half a sleeping pill. Again, try this several months out. If he is too drowsy during the test, you have defeated your purpose.
The day before the test, have them avoid studying or working very much at all. They should take it easy and focus on calming down.
Diet is also important. Avoid sugar and caffeine leading up to the test. Sugar can weaken the immune system with potentially disastrous results. Caffeine can really hype a person up, which is problematic if the student is anxious about the test anyway.
On test day, she might need a little caffeine to be alert. Try a small cup of unsweetened tea. This is not the time to chug a huge soda. Avoid too much liquid intake. Remember, test takers don’t get to choose bathroom breaks!
For breakfast you might try hamburger patties or eggs since the protein in them provides for the slow and steady release of sugar into the blood stream throughout the test. Carbohydrates dump sugar quickly which can lead to a blood sugar spike (which can interfere with focus) and then drop (a physical letdown which can impede top performance).
Have the student wear the digital watch he has been using during practice tests to keep him on track. Especially for the SAT, since it has short sections, he should be comfortable using the stopwatch feature. He should know about how many minutes/seconds he has per question and plan accordingly. Some tests or sections of tests have questions that get increasingly harder. This information is available in a test-prep book. He should know which sections are like that and move quicker in the first part so he will have time for those harder questions at the end.
Things to take on test day:
- A bottle of water
- a healthy energy bar that is balanced in carbohydrates and protein
- some tissue
- a jacket in case the room is cold
- photo ID
- test registration
- the school or homeschool-specific codes for each test (you can obtain this information from CollegeBoard)
- a number of sharpened #2 pencils with good erasers
- an approved calculator with extra batteries. My students always changed the calculator batteries for fresh ones right before the test as well so there were two sets of fresh batteries.
A little planning and foresight can really improve scores on test day.
Jeannette Webb is founder of Aiming Higher Consultants, a firm dedicated to helping Christian students gain admission to great colleges. She has a heart for assisting parents as they train their children for excellence. Jeannette works to empower families to make thoughtful choices for their younger children, to confidently navigate the difficult high school years, and then ace the college admissions process. Get her FREE guide to help you avoid common mistakes made by college-bound students!