Relaxation and Stress Reduction

Keeping cool heading into the SAT...

The SAT is just another test

Good news! Scientists have never found a gene that causes people to fail tests.


Let’s start from the premise that a test is a piece of paper with words on it… nothing magical… not designed to trip you up… not designed to make you look foolish or prove you’re not smart… just questions to find out what you remember from class, what information you've learned, and what concepts you need to revisit for your understanding.

Emotional reactions to tests are normal (and very common)

Taking tests can bring up different feelings for people based on previous experiences:


  • Excitement: ...because you know you’re going to do well.
  • Fear: ...because you think you’re going to bomb it.
  • Stress: ...because you think you are prepared but you felt prepared last time and didn’t do so well.
  • Confusion: ...because the questions on the test didn’t look like those on the study guide.
  • Negative Messages: ...“I can’t take tests”, “I’m going to fail”, “I don’t even care if I pass” “I’ll never get into college”, “my parents are going to ground me if I don’t get my grades up”

High emotions cause physical reactions (also very common)

Physical reactions can accompany or precipitate feelings we have regarding tests:


  • Sweaty palms, clammy hands
  • Faster heart beat
  • Butterflies in your stomach, feeling a little nauseous (like you’re going to throw up)
  • Tenseness in the neck
  • Feel shaky or even like you might faint

STRATEGIES FOR COMBATING TEST STRESS

Prepare for the SAT and make it something familiar:


  • Access Khan Academy for test prep early. Prepping for a test should be a process not a cramming session the night before a test. Research shows that student’s who consistently prepare for tests in increments, increase their knowledge, reinforce the knowledge they have and identify target areas to develop. Cramming for a test can lead to self- doubt, inability to sleep, stress and often creates the opposite of what is the optimal frame of mind for successful test taking.
  • Review and understand the SAT directions ahead of time. Stay tuned for an upcoming monthly SAT newsletter with information on directions for each section of the test. This will save you time on each section and will help you feel more confident with what to expect when you sit down for the real thing.


Focus on body health and mindfulness heading into any test:


  • Get enough sleep, especially the night before. This is usually a problem for teenagers. You can: plan ahead to take the night off of work, turn off the TV, leave your phone in another room, read a book, or listen to calming music to drift off easier.
  • Get up in time to eat breakfast. This doesn't mean grab a pop-tart, or a Red-Bull, but actually eat a breakfast high in protein and with low amounts of sugar.
  • Arrive early. Get to school a few minutes early to so you can get to your locker or get to class in plenty of time to prepare and relax a little.
  • Deep breathing. Taking slow, deep belly breaths is calming to your body and clears your mind. Take a moment to close your eyes, breathe deep and focus on the breath going in and out of your lungs. Do this right before taking a test to re-set your focus and start the testing process fresh. You can also do this at any point during the test if you begin to feel overwhelmed or distracted.
  • Remind yourself that one test does not define you. The SAT can be re-taken as many times as you like. Look at each test as a next step rather than the final step in the college entrance process.
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Your's In SAT Preparation, The Huron Valley Schools Counselors