How to Ease Tension Before and During the SAT

By Geraldine Woods, Ron Woldoff

You’ll probably feel nervous when you arrive at the SAT test center. Try a couple of stretches and head shakes to dispel (chase away) tension. During the exam, wriggle your feet and move your shoulders up and down whenever you feel yourself tightening up. Some people like neck rolls (pretend that your neck is made of spaghetti and let your head droop in a big circle).

If you roll your neck or move your head to either side, however, be sure to close your eyes. Don’t risk a charge of cheating. Just like an Olympic diver preparing to go off of the board, take a few deep breaths to calm yourself.

Recent studies have shown that some tension can actually boost your score. Before you begin the exam, visualize a time when you were nervous and had a good outcome — say, before riding a roller coaster or just prior to your entrance onstage. Setting a positive scene in your mind may channel your nervous energy to a higher score.

During your break, stay away from your fellow test-takers. You don’t want to hear someone else’s version of the right answer. (“I got –12 for that one! You didn’t? Uh oh.”) Test-chat won’t help you and may increase your anxiety level. It’s also against the rules.