It is common knowledge that completing ACT or SAT practice exams is a core component of a strong test prep program. For many students, the most apparent benefit of practice exams is that they expose the students to test content and formatting.
But when practice exams are taken under genuine testing conditions, they confer an additional benefit: preparation for the length and pace of these critical assessments.
The ACT and SAT are not just long exams, with both lasting approximately three hours, but they are also fast-paced. For this reason, taking either test is often compared to running a marathon.
While most high schoolers take ACT or SAT practice tests, fewer students properly interpret the meaning behind their performance. Here are three things that your practice test results may be trying to tell you:
— Content you may have not yet mastered.
— Whether anxiety is a potential factor for you.
— Whether fatigue or momentum is at play.
Content You May Have Not Yet Mastered
This is perhaps the best-known takeaway when it comes to practice tests for college entrance exams. Your performance on practice exams can reveal which test sections and question types you excel at and which you still need to work on.
When you review your practice exam results, keep an eye out for telling patterns. Identifying your problem areas is especially easy when the answer key breaks down questions by category and difficulty level. In cases where such information is not available, you will have to draw content conclusions for yourself.
In either case, the next step is to drill yourself on your weakest question types, which you can usually do by focusing on particular chapters or sections of printed test prep materials, or by using filters online.
Whether Anxiety Is a Potential Factor for You
Testing anxiety is common, with at least 34% of students experiencing moderate or high levels of test-related stress, according to the American Test Anxieties Association. When you consider how much may depend on your final ACT or SAT score, it is understandable that these exams may cause you some concern. For some students, a low ACT or SAT score can be a barrier to earning scholarships or gaining admission to favored colleges.
One sign that you suffer from testing anxiety is that your performance in your weakest area or areas — for instance, math or grammar — is exceptionally poor. This happens because anxiety sends your confidence plummeting. Therefore, if you are already insecure about your knowledge of a subject, adding anxiety to the mix may lead you to perform worse than you normally would.
One way to reduce your testing anxiety on the ACT or SAT is simply to study test content and practice with genuine exam material as often as possible. Familiarizing yourself with the test will increase your comfort level with it, which may in turn reduce your anxiety.
Another strategy is to strengthen other components of your college applications, like your admissions essay and GPA. After all, your standardized test scores are just one of many factors that colleges look at. If you know those other factors are making your college applications competitive, you may not worry so much about your ACT or SAT scores — and a healthy amount of apathy can actually work in your favor.
Whether Fatigue or Momentum Is at Play
A telltale sign that you are dealing with fatigue is that your test performance tends to decline in the last one or two exam sections. Your fatigue could be attributed to a combination of factors such as inadequate sleep, an overloaded schedule or completion of practice exams too late in the day.
The remedies for fatigue vary dramatically depending on its root cause. In the case of inadequate sleep, you should aim to sleep the suggested eight to 10 hours per night for teenagers. For other causes of fatigue, the solution may be to reprioritize your tasks or take practice tests in the morning or early afternoon rather than close to bedtime.
Regardless of the cause, however, most students will find that taking full-length practice tests on a regular basis, such as once a month, will get them used to working under genuine testing conditions. This can aid with issues related to momentum and fatigue.
For example, if you do not have the chance to finish each section of the ACT or SAT, then the issue at hand may be more your pace than your energy level. You can train yourself to work faster by doing drill exercises — for instance, completing a specific number of questions in a specific number of minutes — but always stay true to the exam’s actual timing.
Finally, remember to adjust your prep plan to reflect what you have learned from your practice test experiences.
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Learn From Your ACT, SAT Practice Test Results With These Tips originally appeared on usnews.com