Tips for a Successful Test Day Mindset

A large part of succeeding on standardized tests, such as the ACT, SAT, AP exams, PSAT, and SAT Subject Tests, is having the correct mindset heading into test day. I’ve seen many super intelligent students sabotage themselves by going into a big test with a negative or anxiety-ridden mindset. 


Test-Taking Mindset Tips

  1. Don’t underestimate the value of a good pep talk prior to taking a test. Boost your confidence with positive statements: “I can do this,” “I know what to expect and am prepared,” “I will conquer this test,” etc.

  2. Don’t speak negatively about yourself or to yourself. I’ve often heard students say “I’m so stupid” when they miss a question or “I just can’t do this” when facing a difficult problem or passage. Growing up my parents drilled into me the harmful effects of negative self-fulfilling prophecies. If you say you’re never going to get this specific question type correct, then probably you won’t. Having these negative refrains on repeat in your mind can affect your testing confidence, heighten your anxiety, and limit your potential. 

  3. Don’t get stuck. If you run into a problem that you don’t know how to do, take your best guess and keep moving. Don’t let one difficult question keep you from having time to succeed on other questions. 

  4. Don’t worry about what you cannot control. There are several aspects of testing that you can’t control, like the way other students act during the test, the amount of time you are given, or the way the test will eventually be scaled. Focus on what you can control: your own preparation for the test, your own content knowledge, your own reactions to questions and the testing atmosphere, and your own pacing.

  5. Don’t second guess yourself. The majority of the time the first answer you choose is correct. The only time to change an answer is if you find new evidence that confirms the correctness of a different answer. 


Practical Steps to Build Your Confidence on Test Day

  1. Revise your thinking. If you notice negative thoughts slipping into your mind, replace them with positive thoughts. This is easier said than done but, with practice, can be rewarding.

  2. Lower the stakes. Remind yourself that this one test—whatever test it is—does not define your intelligence, your future success, or your self-worth. 

  3. Familiarize yourself with how the standardized test words questions. Most standardized tests have previous years’ tests available for you to practice with. Entering test day knowing exactly what to expect is the ultimate testing advantage.


If you’d like to learn more test-taking tips and strategies to help you master even the most difficult test, contact us to set up your test prep plan. Pivot Tutors is here to help!

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