Standardized tests in middle school and high school are scary enough, but don’t even get me started on the SAT to get into college, or graduate school entry exams like the GMAT or LSAT. You feel like your entire existence and value depends on how you score on one exam. With your performance likely being the most weighed factor, there is a lot of pressure to perform, which causes even more stress. Here are some tips to ace entry exams:
Don’t over study
This is the pitfall so many people fall into. Whether you’re taking the ACT or LSAT, don’t over study. Start studying for your exam 3-4 months from the date you plan to take it. Space out your study sessions to give yourself a break. Studying too soon in advance, and too intensely, can lead to burnout and even worse performance than without any studying at all. Although the pressure might be on to do well, slow and steady wins the race.
Take care of yourself
When you’re worrying about an important exam, especially close to the test date, so many people lose sight of how important their health really is to success. Your body needs rest to function at full capacity. Don’t be afraid to slow down, take a break, and rest when you need to. A burnout or breakdown will not help you ace the test. Get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, exercise, whatever your body needs to be it’s absolute best.
Know how the exam will be scored
Some tests only award points for questions you answer correctly, and some deduct points for questions you answer incorrectly. Learn which type of exam you’re taking and answer questions accordingly. If you’re taking an exam that deducts points for wrong answers and you can’t narrow it down to two answer choices, don’t answer it at all. On the flip side, if your exam only gives points for questions you do answer correctly, with one minute left, fill in every answer choice as C. You’re bound to get some correct.
Learn the pattern of the exam
Many standardized exams have patterns they follow. Learn the pattern of the exam and make it work to your advantage. Whether that means you start answering questions with the last one in the section, or learn the tricky wording of logical reasoning questions, take the time to learn how the test works, and make it yours.
Take your time
Most exams have time constraints, but don’t let that scare you. Often people make the silliest mistakes when they feel rushed to finish a section, and miss important clue words. Take plenty of practice tests and do practice problems to become a pro at timing out your sections. If you learn how to time yourself, without feeling rushed, you’ll already be one step ahead of the test, and be able to face it without the fear of running out of time.