Anxiety is common when taking college admission tests like the SAT and ACT, but it can also undermine efforts. Parentology spoke with Dory Schultz, Director of Tutoring at A-List, an international organization that provides tutoring for the SAT and ACT, about the best way to prep for tests, from how to target study to mindful meditation. And for those non-test takers, we take a look at colleges and universities that don’t require test scores for admissions.
Taking pressure-heavy tests may seem overwhelming with the question looming: where to even start? Schultz says to bear in mind what’s on the test is limited in scope and knowing what to focus on, and how the tests are formatted, is key. “They [students] can do this by paying close attention to real fundamental math and prescriptive grammar.”
Indeed, a full 33% of the SAT is freshman algebra and 40% of the ACT is pre-high school math. There’s no calculus whatsover on either test. With facts like this in mind, Schultz advises paying attention to detail, something he’s witnessed leading to excellence among those testing.
Another pitfall test takers often face is getting in their own way. “Students experience difficulties when they get confused and distracted.”
Schultz uses the example of a well-studied student encountering a math problem on the SAT that seems foreign. In a heightened state of anxiety, that students may have a trigger reaction, thinking they’re facing an advanced math problem when, in reality, the problem is just phrased differently than anticipated.
This is the kind of instance, Schultz says, when it’s best to slow down, read the question carefully, focus and recenter.
Test-optional Colleges Don’t Require SAT or ACT
More than 700 four-year U.S. colleges and universities are test optional, with students not required to submit scores to gain admission. There are more than 320 top-tier liberal arts colleges and research universities that de-emphasize the SAT. Some of these schools are test flexible and others have guaranteed admission based on GPA or class rank.
What about the student that’s studied hard, is well-informed and still experiences high levels of anxiety? Find a relaxation exercise that speaks to their personality. Schultz recommends, “To reduce anxiety, I recommend students practice mindfulness meditation. However, it’s very important to make this a regular practice versus a quick fix on the day of the exam.”
A process used in this type of meditation involves children recognizing areas within their bodies reacting to stress. Once they’ve pinpointed where stress is being held, they should refocus attention to these areas, breathing slowly and mindfully releasing muscles and tension. Schultz points out, “This is an invaluable skill, not just for handling test anxiety, but for life as a whole.”