Got Scantron Nightmares?

Image of Screaming Janet Leigh in PsychoSay, “S-A-T” or “A-C-T” to a high school junior, and watch their whole demeanor change.  The idea that a test score that will be considered as part of a future college application can provoke a racing pulse and perspiration. A typical conversation with Juniors about the SAT and ACT goes something like this:

ME: Tell me your opinion about the SAT and ACT.

STUDENT: [With furrowed brow and an eye roll] I usually do ok on standardized tests, but there’s a lot riding on this one.

Notice the “A LOT” before the word “riding” in the student’s statement.  There’s much meaning hiding behind that one adjective. Understanding the “a lot” will help SAT and ACT test takers relax and be able to prepare for each test.

Usually, after a few questions, a student will fess up that s/he believes that the SAT or ACT score will be THE single most important factor in determining whether they’ll actually attend college or not. Her/his fear of “my scores being too low” equals “zero chance of getting into ANY college” creates the pressure.  In turn, the pressure can distract students from focusing when answering questions. Second or third guessing is typical, as students silently doubt and re-doubt their answers, all while the seconds clicks by, adding even more stress that time will run out, leaving what can seem like many questions unanswered, which will further decrease the score.  When students acknowledge their fears and understand their anxieties about taking the SAT or ACT BEFORE the test, then they can focus during the SAT and ACT, and answer each question to the best of their abilities.

For more about test taking strategies and preparing for the SAT, ACT and SAT Subject Tests, contact Jill at or (916) 457-4090.