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How Stress Can Help SAT & ACT Performance

All my students know that my first message with respect to test prep is to avoid stress. Stress can lead to negativity. Negativity can deflate confidence. Deflated confidence can reduce performance. 

In fact, I claim that stress is the number one enemy of test performance While I stand by my claim, there may actually be a benefit to stress as long as you know how to use it effectively. Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman first wrote about pressure and stress on standardized tests for the New York Times in 2013 and expanded upon their original article in the book Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing In both pieces, they argue that stress may not necessarily be a bad thing if you know how to harness it.  Bronson and Merryman cite a study in which students were split into two groups and given a practice GRE. The control group was given the test normally while the test group was given a test with instructions that included a line that “people that feel anxious may actually perform better.”  Turns out the test group that was given the encouragement about anxiety helping performance actually performed better. Results were replicated months later when students turned in their real GRE scores: those that felt stress would help them had scores 65 points higher than those that did not.  There is a lot more science to this study, including things like biomarkers that indicate the level of one’s anxiety. For example, students with hunched shoulders may appear “threatened” by the test while those with open shoulders may seem “challenged” by the test. Both threatened and challenged students feel anxious and stressed, but those that feel challenged perform better.  Overall, the message is clear. As long as you have to face a stressful situation, embrace the stress of it. Use the stress of the experience to challenge you. Approach test day with a positive attitude of “I look forward to this challenge” and not “I am threatened by this and I hate this.” 

After all, as this study shows, if your attitude is in the right mindset, your aptitude will shine Learn more useful test day tips by reading 2400 SCORES: 24 Life Lessons to Demystify the SAT and Boost Your Score. Contact Brooke Higgins today to schedule your ACT or SAT prep or visit CROSSWALK to learn more about tutoring options. 

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