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Last Updated: Nov 13th, 2011 - 15:16:21 


Helping Kids Survive The SAT Exams
By Jacqueline LoBosco, Ph.D. and Michele LoBosco
May 29, 2008, 21:43 PST

The following words are sure to strike fear in the hearts of college-bound teens: The SATs are coming, the SATs are coming.

Yes, with the last SAT date of this school semester (June 7) fast approaching there is, no doubt, a significant number of panicked high school students out there. Not to mention all the stressed-out moms and dads.

Consider the demographics that today's high school seniors are facing. They're among a record number of students applying to college. The high school class of 2008 numbers nearly 3.4 million, which is the largest in US history, and many students, in an effort to increase their chances of college admission, are applying to seven or more colleges. A staggering 6.3 million college applications were submitted to 4-yr colleges in the fall of 2006 and it is estimated that the number of applications increased this past year.

"It's no wonder that today's teenagers are so stressed out about the SATs, and stress is certainly an obstacle to doing well on test day," say Jacqueline LoBosco, Ph.D. and Michele LoBosco, co-authors of How to Ace the SAT Without Losing Your Cool and co-founders of the Academics Plus Enrichment Center, who offer the following eight tips for teens to help alleviate stress on SAT day:

  1. Breathe. Breathing deeply can have a significant impact. When you are anxious and tense, it's common to start breathing shallowly, and then less of the good stuff (oxygen) goes in and less of the bad stuff (carbon dioxide) goes out. Shallow breathing can result in fatigue, irritability, mental confusion, lethargy, and even lead to more stress.

  2. Focus on what you can do. Test day is the time to relax and be kind to yourself, and not worry about what you "could've" or "should've" done. Take a few moments to acknowledge yourself for all your hard work, take a few deep breaths and apply yourself to the best of your ability.

  3. Fuel your body. Food plays a major role in minimizing stress levels. Complex carbohydrates keep your brain alert; fruits and vegetables provide much needed energy; and nuts, such as almonds, keep your blood sugar levels balanced. These healthful foods help fend off fatigue and avoid the negative effects of anxiety caused by low levels of energy and difficulties concentrating.

  4. Limit caffeine. Coffee and other drinks containing caffeine are stimulants and can potentially increase one's anxiety level. Studies indicate that caffeine can exacerbate stress and panic which are certainly emotions that students experience on the day of the SAT. Water is the best option for hydration.

  5. Visualize. Use the powerful process of visualization or meditation. Both have been shown to lower blood pressure and levels of stress hormones in the body. On test day, relax your body and mind and imagine yourself achieving your goals. An increased ability to maintain focus and a stronger sense of calm will maximize your chances to do well on the SAT.

  6. Keep pace. Part of being a successful test taker is using time effectively. Practice pacing yourself during your preparations so that on the day of the test you move through the exam at a comfortable and easy pace.

  7. Support yourself. Use break times to support yourself; check in with yourself and see how you are feeling. Did you forget any of your strategies? Have you been communicating with yourself in a positive way? Identify the trouble spots and use this information to make effective modifications once you move onto the next section of the test.

  8. Don't beat yourself up. Conserve your mental resources and conduct yourself in a way that will maximize your chances for success. As you move through the exam, steer clear of negative thinking patterns. Keep your focus on doing the problems to the best of your ability and in the most effective and structured way possible.

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Helping Kids Survive The SAT Exams