I recently wrote a blog explaining why students who do well in school get test scores that are not commensurate with their grades.  The answer too often is test anxiety, so allow me to share some easily applicable solutions. This is a relatively common phenomenon, so I would like to share some easily applicable solutions:

  1. Get familiar with the test. Students often adopt – what I like to call – ‘magical thinking’: “I do well in school, so I will do fine on the SAT (or ACT).” Because they had not practiced and consequently did not take the time to get a familiarity with the format and question types, such students immediately switch into anxiety mode.

For many students, merely taking weekly tests at least a month before test day is often enough to eliminate that anxiety.

  1. Practice meditation techniques. Consider this: For two weeks prior to taking the GRE – a more sophisticated SAT – the 48 University of California students elected to be participants in a study to evaluate their working memory capabilities, performance and focus on the reading comprehension passages of the exam. They met four days a week for two weeks and practiced breathing and meditation techniques. The results from the study revealed that not only did these students diminish their tendency for “mind-wandering” and anxiety, they also increased their scores on the reading comprehension (and working memory): the average score on a practice GRE verbal section jumped from 460 to 520. (Imagine how much more they would improve if they learned effective test taking strategies as well!) RECOMMENDED APPS FOR MEDIATION: Calm or Smiling Mind.
  1. Learn EFT: EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or tapping is being used by thousands of practitioners world-wide to teach their clients and patients how to get over emotional or physical pain and/or ‘roadblocks to success’. It runs the gamut from alleviating PTSD, losing weight, mitigating depression, getting over performance anxiety or relieving back pain. By tapping on the accupressure points and a using a guided script, the person eventually is able to move past their limiting beliefs.

A study involving Staffordshire University students in England provided evidence that EFT can boost performance in pressured conditions. 100 students were randomly approached to either receive an inspirational lecture or an EFT session ahead of giving a marked presentation. The 50 students who received the EFT remained calmer and achieved higher results. On average, it has been determined that just over five sessions are required to treat clients; more importantly, it’s an easy tool to learn and self administer.

Here’s a script I offer to my students. I also like this write-up.

  1. Use peppermint while taking the test: Peppermint is a powerful essential oil. Chewing peppermint gum, inhaling it, or sucking on a peppermint lozenge can help you focus better. The University of Cincinnati learned that using peppermint in a room of test-takers boosted alertness and concentration. The menthol in peppermint stimulates the hippocampus area of the brain which controls mental clarity and memory. The odor triggers you to wake up and pay attention. I prefer Spry peppermint lozenges or gum. You can also try Eden Gardens Synergy Blend, Stay Alert.
  1. Learn how to be a more efficient reader. Students who are avid readers are confident readers and typically do well on standardized exams on ALL sections.Intrinsic to a quality test prep program – a program that address the mandatory skill sets as well as strategies – is an effective reading program. Many, if not most of the students we see lack confidence in their reading skills: “I read SO slowly”; “Every time I read, I fall asleep”; “I can never maintain focus”’; “Books are so boring, so I only read the Spark Notes”. A student who comes in feeling this way about reading will quite naturally feel intimidated taking the SAT or ACT.

Efficient reading for the SAT or ACT involves teaching students how to not only improve their reading speed but their comprehension and focus as well. By learning how to read in word groups, they are able to develop a reading range from 300 wpm to 1000 wpm depending on purpose and content. (The reading range for the exams is 300-600 wpm.) When students see their ‘new normal’ speed increase from 180 wpm to 500 wpm, I see their confidence soar, which carries over into higher test scores.!

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