Conquering Test Anxiety

For High School Students

Before Testing

Know the Test Format

The ACT and ACT Aspire are timed, computer-based tests. Both exams consist of five sections: English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing.


ACT Aspire includes multiple choice, multiple select, interactive, and fill in the blank question types, plus one essay.

Complete the sample test to see the different styles of questions for yourself (Select Exemplars to find the sample tests).


The ACT includes only multiple choice questions and one writing prompt.

Complete a full practice test to experience the exam for yourself. All multiple choice sections of the practice test will let you know how many questions you got correct at the end.


AzSCI (for 11th graders) is an untimed exam consisting of 60 multiple choice, multiple select, interactive, and fill in the blank question types.

Know the Test Tools

Tools such as a highlighter, an answer eliminator, and a calculator will be provided within the testing platform. Experience these test tools by taking the practice tests online!

Mentally Prepare

Students academically prepare for testing all year in their classes, but it is important to also mentally prepare for the testing experience. Click the button above for resources to help your student navigate different emotional states.

Pack Accordingly

Since students are accustom to working in a specific setting on a daily basis, it is important to support students by sending them to testing prepared. While ASUPD will provide all testing materials, some students just like using their own stuff!


During testing, you may wish to send students with the following items:


  • Water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Sweater/Jacket
  • Pens/Pencils
  • Calculator (See ACT Calculator Guidance)
  • Noise cancelling headphones
  • Fidget device (so long as it does not distract others)

During Testing

Have a Plan

Think through different testing situations before they happen. It is in your best interest to answer all of the questions before time is up because you are not penalized for incorrect answers. Since these exams are timed, it is common to not have enough time to get through all of the questions, so you may wish to save the last minute of the exam for filling in any unanswered questions.

The exam is typically structured so that the more challenging questions are at the end of the exam. This means you may wish to focus your attention on doing especially well with the first half of the questions for a given section. When you get to more challenging questions, consider how you might narrow down options for those questions. Planning to spend equal time on each question is actually a bad test-taking strategy because the question difficulty increase over time.


These are all situations you can plan for in advance so you can focus your mental energy on the test questions.

Make the Most Out of Breaks

Since these exams are timed, you will want to make the most of the breaks you get between exam sections. Be sure to get up out of your seat for a quick stretch, grab a snack, and use the restroom so you can be re-centered and focused when you return to your seat for the next section.

Practice Calming Techniques

Taking slow, deep breaths - Closing your eyes and counting to 10 - Positive self talk

These are just a few ways you might be able to keep yourself present and calm during the exam.

Accept When You Don't Know Something

On a big test like this, you actually aren't expected to know everything on it. If you think you know something but are unsure, skip it and come back to it later. If you know you don't know something, there is no harm in accepting that. Take a guess and move on to the next question.

Remember: This test does not define you!