Standardized tests determine more than you’d think -- what math class a second grader will take in middle school, the job a military recruit will have in the Armed Forces, what college a high school senior will graduate from. As a result, it’s important to do as well as possible. Luckily, there are a few ways to improve standardized test scores on any test across the board.
Take a Practice Test
A test’s unfamiliarity can be one of the most difficult components of getting started. If you look at practice tests available online before going into your testing center, you’ll be able to hit the ground running, without waiting to adjust to the test’s format. By looking at older or practice tests, you can also familiarize yourself with the problem-solving strategies needed for similarly-formatted questions. Furthermore, each graded test will give you an insight into your strengths and weaknesses, and will direct your studying towards the subjects you need the most help in.
Think About What Test Fits Your Strengths
If you have a choice of tests -- for instance, the SAT versus the ACT, or specific SAT subject tests -- choose the test that is best suited to your skills. The ACT is a better choice for students who can process information quickly and come into the test with specific knowledge of the subject matter. Students with strong vocabularies and a knowledge of test-taking strategies may prefer the SAT. Consider your grades in your classes before enrolling in an SAT subject test. There’s no need to over-test; if you pick the right tests up front, you’ll be prepared.
A study in “Psychological Science” demonstrated that mindfulness training -- a concerted effort to stay concentrated on a single subject -- can help to improve test scores. The mindfulness exercise need not be related to the test you’re studying for. In fact, during the Psychological Science study, test-takers were only required to write their daily food intake. However, by the end of the study, their GRE test scores had improved by 16 percentile points. Finding a single task to focus on, like reading or meditating for thirty minutes every day, can help prevent test-day distraction.
Take a Deep Breath and Relax
Text anxiety is linked with standardized test under performance by otherwise highly achieving students, according to the Carnegie Foundation. In order to prevent the fear many students experience in connection with testing, general anxiety-relieving techniques like deep breathing and stretching can help to keep a test-taker’s mind focused on the paper on the desk. In addition to creating a feeling of relaxation, taking a deep breath also increases oxygen intake, helping you to think more clearly.
- The Princeton Review: Improving Your ACT or SAT Score
- Association for Psychological Science: Brief Mindfulness Training May Boost Test Scores, Working Memory
- The Carnegie Foundation Perspectives: My Child Doesn’t Test Well
- Bucks County Community College: Test-Taking Strategies
- MayoClinic.com: Meditation: A Simple, Fast Way to Reduce Stress
Suzy Kerr graduated from Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Georgia. She completed her Master's degree in Nutrition Sciences, also at the University of Georgia. Suzy has been a successful health, fitness and nutrition writer for more than 10 years, and has been published in various print and online publications.