Subject-matter (such as advanced placement) tests start Monday. So for the next two weeks, students will experience a whirlwind of last-minute studying, test-taking, and then relief at being finished with a year’s worth of college-level material.
For some, this will be your 2nd or 3rd year taking subject-matter tests. But for others, this will be your first year.
Remembering back to my first year taking these tests, I was extremely nervous, having no idea what to expect when it came to my first big standardized test. Remembering how nice it would have been to have some idea of what to expect, I thought I would run through what subject-matter tests are like — at least from my vantage point — and how best to prepare for them in the days before.
The preparation for your test really starts weeks before the actual test. Over the past few weeks I ran through my notes from class/review materials and copied down things that were particularly important or that I forgot onto a review sheet. This way, the night or two before the test when I start to get nervous, I have a sheet with just the important things to refresh my memory instead of having to try and leaf through everything, which just tends to frustrate and confuse me.
Exercising always seems to help keep me calm and relaxed. So, after reading my review sheet the night before a test, I like to do something physical just to get the “jitters” out of my system. Whether it’s going for a run, playing basketball, or anything else, just doing something active after spending so much time studying always seems to help me. This way, when I get back to my house and get to bed, I sleep well.
When it comes to sleep, get your usual amount. When it comes to something that is going to test a full year of learning, one night isn’t going to make that much difference, so don’t stay up late trying to cram. There’s also no need to oversleep. Sometimes I find that when I sleep too much, I feel just as groggy in the morning as I would have had I not slept that much. Whatever amount of sleep you usually get on a school night should work best.
In the morning, definitely take a shower to wake up and then have a light breakfast. Not having food in your stomach will not be fun when food is all you think about instead of the test. But by the same token, overeating can make you feel tired or weighed down when you need to be awake.
Show up to your test early. You don’t want to feel rushed or stressed before you even get started on the test. And use the bathroom before you go into the classroom if you have to at all. Make sure to bring an ID, a pen, pencils, an eraser, and depending on the test, a calculator with spare batteries. Being prepared is key. You don’t want some silly thing like having your calculator run out of batteries prevent you from doing as well as you could have on the test.
During the test itself, stay relaxed. Remember that there’s only an upside to subject-matter tests. If you do well, you may get some college credit. If not, you’ll have a leg up taking the class in college with some experience already in that subject. And don’t let any one particular question get to you. If something stumps you, slow down and think through it another way. If you’re really stumped, just skip the problem. Come back to it at the end if you have extra time. Keep in mind that subject-matter tests are graded on a curve. They’re not like tests in your regular classes where you have to get the vast majority of the problems correct to do well.
Also, use your breaks. Even if you don’t have to use the bathroom, get up and walk there. If nothing else, it clears your head and gives you a quick change of scenery before you start another section.
In short, be prepared, stay focused, and keep calm. And when it’s all over, celebrate!
Good luck to everyone taking subject-matter tests this week … see you on the other side.