Standardized test taking can be a very stressful experience. Don't freak out. Standardized test scores are important, but they are not the primary factor in deciding whether or not you get accepted by the college of your choice. If tests make you cringe, you can compensate for less-than-stellar test scores by having a solid GPA, volunteer work, well-rounded abilities and a heavy amount of extra-curricular activities.
Even though your standardized test scores aren't the sole deciding factor in your application, you should still make every effort to ensure that your scores are up where they should be. Here's a few suggestions to help you improve your standardized test scores.
Take the PSAT. The PSAT is offered to juniors in high school during the month of October. The PSAT is just a Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test. It does not count toward your real SAT scores. The PSAT is optional, but you should really take it. It's like a trial run that will familiarize you with the format and process of taking a standardized test. These tests take hours and have different sections, so you can practice your test taking stamina and see what subjects you score strongly in and what subjects you still need work on. Because it's not the real thing, you'll still have time to improve the areas that you need to work on, before you sit down and take the real test. There's also a preliminary ACT test known as the pre-American College Test.
Consider getting a tutor, buying a study guide or enrolling in a test-taking course. The more you prepare for your standardized test, like the SAT or ACT (most colleges accept both), the less surprised you will be come test day, and the better you will be able to perform. These tests are marathons of scholastic output, and the more familiar you are with the format, the better you'll be.
If you work well in a one-on-one environment, get a tutor before you take the test. If you learn better on your own, just buy a study book with sample tests and familiarize yourself with the format at your own pace. If you require a more structured approach, consider enrolling in a professional test taking course. These courses can be pretty expensive, but they can teach you valuable tricks and strategies that'll give you noticeably better scores.
Get a good night's rest before you take your test. Don't show up late, don't forget to eat a good meal and make sure you have a water bottle, some snacks, some headache medication and extra pencils handy. Practice controlling your stress. Try meditation, massage your temples or do whatever it takes to stay relaxed, calm and focused on the task at hand.
If you prepare properly, your standardized test taking experience will be a breeze. You will not be surprised or confused by particular sections or questions. If you invested your studying time accordingly, then you will not freak out. If you just have a crippling fear of multiple choice questions, that's okay. Spend time developing your other application attributes (like grades, activities, an award winning personal essay, etc). Make every effort to improve your scores, and if your quantitative scores are not up to par, then overshadow them with your superior qualitative features.
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