Raising Test Scores Means Leaving Your Comfort Zone

A baby learning to stand

Just as a baby takes time to learn to stand on his own, learning SAT and ACT specific strategies take time to learn before most students are comfortable with them. Apply those strategies, even when they are difficult, before charging headlong into the questions.

If you are looking to raise your SAT or ACT test scores, one of the best things you can do is go outside your comfort zone. Strategies that have worked for the past 12-13 years of regular school testing do not always work when they are applied to standardized tests. If you want to “beat the test,” you must step outside your comfort zone. Let’s take a look at two of the reasons this is true.

  1. The SAT and ACT are timed tests. The main characteristic separating standardized tests from regular classroom tests is the extreme time constraints placed on test takers. Most students taking the SAT and ACT would significantly improve their scores if they were given an unlimited time to work the problems; however, because the tests have those time constraints, trying to answer every question often lowers scores. To beat the test, most students should count on skipping certain problems to raise their scores, but this so completely goes against everything students have been taught for many years that they rebel against doing so.
  2. Answers are meant to pull students away from the correct answer choice. Answer choices in some sections are designed as “distractors.” These are answers that look right because they remind you of something that was said in the passage or the question stem or because they remind you of something you know from outside knowledge. To “beat the test,” students must come up with their own answers first, but many rebel against this because it does require hard work at first.

So whether you are taking a test prep class or studying on your own, be sure to try new strategies and then give them enough time to really learn and be comfortable with them during practice sessions. Remember, just as a toddler learns to walk slowly in order to run, a new test taker must learn new strategies slowly in order to be comfortable with them rather than charging ahead and blindly applying the same old techniques.

Test Prep – Does Visualizing Success Work?

A young woman a daydream.

While visualizing success is good in small doses, be sure it does not detract from your actual test prep experience.

When prepping for a big test, does merely visualizing success work? Well, no of course not, but it may help.

Who Visualizes Success?

Many of us have heard stories of professional athletes who can see themselves hitting the ball, making the shot, or kicking the winning goal. Recently, reports surfaced of the US Olympic swim team using visualization techniques to help them get the feel of cutting through the water for the win.

There can be little doubt that seeing yourself succeeding can help build confidence, but there is more to it than that.

Forbes reports in the article Visualize Success if You Want to Fail that Kappes and Oettingen performed four experiments using visualization techniques. The results showed that those who engaged in visualizing success did not perform as well as those who did not. Why not? One hypothesis is that visualizing success prevents individuals from keeping motivation needed for the hard work required to attain that very success. People can be lulled into thinking that we are capable of succeeding without doing more.

So Does Visualizing Success Work?

The answer, in my opinion, is that visualizing success is a wonderful tool for those suffering from test anxiety. Many great athletes, speakers, and successful individuals do use this technique, and it can be useful in relaxing an anxious test taker, but success based on visualization alone is a definite myth.

Becoming a world class athlete, a Nobel prize winner, or best selling author never comes through visualization alone. If you are using visualization in conjunction with the hard work required for test prep then it is a good tool, but it should be viewed as just a minor tool of many greater tools at your disposal.

If you are serious about test prep and doing well on your ACT and SAT, spend a little time on visualizing success and a whole lot of time on real test prep.