Standardized tests such as the SAT, ACT, and GRE play a pivotal role in many scholarship applications and college admissions. While thorough preparation through studying content, timed practice tests, and learning effective test strategies is essential, it’s also crucial to avoid common mistakes made under the pressure of the actual test day.
Small errors caused by anxiety, fatigue, and carelessness can bridge the difference between an average score and an exceptional score that gives your scholarship candidacy a competitive edge.
By learning techniques to manage test anxiety, pace yourself effectively, sustain focus, and double-check your work, you can minimize careless errors. This article will enlighten you on how you can avoid some top mistakes students make when taking high-stakes standardized tests for scholarships.
Let’s dive in
10 Ways to Avoid Mistakes on Standardized Tests for Scholarships
1. Don’t Forget to Double Check Your Work
With short time limits per section, it’s very easy to make careless mistakes by rushing through questions. Always budget sufficient time at the end to double-check your work. Slow down and re-read each question and your answers.
For math problems, redo any calculations to catch any errors. Verify answer choices are filled in correctly. Catching small errors now means avoiding losing easy points later.
2. Manage Your Time Wisely
Create a detailed timing plan before test day for how long to spend on each question type and test section. Stick closely to your timing strategy under pressure. If needed, wear a watch to monitor your pacing. Don’t spend too long on early hard questions that derail the schedule.
Getting bogged down early prevents you from reaching easier questions later. For example, if you have 20 questions to do in 10 minutes, allot 30 seconds per question. Adjust as needed if some sections have more points.
3. Avoid Letting Anxiety Overwhelm You
It’s normal to feel some anxiety on test day but don’t let nerves derail your performance. If you feel anxious during the test, take a few deep breaths to clear your head and relax. Visualize yourself succeeding to boost confidence.
Stay positive by remembering you worked hard to prepare for this. Have faith in yourself and your abilities, not your fears. Anxiety often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that interferes with demonstrating your true skill level.
4. Read Questions Completely Before Answering
It’s easy to skim over questions quickly, but keywords and details can change a question’s meaning. Slow down and read each test question thoroughly word-for-word before considering answer choices.
Make sure you understand exactly what the question is asking. Look for keywords like “not” that could change the meaning. Rushing into answering risks getting tripped up by details you missed.
5. Skip Difficult Questions and Return Later
With most standardized tests, you can freely skip questions and come back to them later with no penalty. If you’re stuck on a difficult question, flag it by marking the question number and return to it later with fresh eyes and perspective.
Forcing yourself to spend too much time on one hard question early can use up valuable time needed for easier questions later. Do the easy and moderate questions first so you don’t miss out on easier potential points.
Using techniques like these can help you achieve your highest potential and avoid common errors when taking high-stakes SAT, GRE, or other major standardized tests for scholarships.
6. Check Units on Math Problems
For standardized test math questions involving calculations, always double-check the units expected for the answer before selecting. Getting units wrong is an easy mistake that can invalidate an otherwise completely correct solution.
For example, an answer may require kilometers, but you mistakenly solve for meters. Take the extra few seconds to verify your work requires the correct units. Don’t let small unit conversion errors undermine your math competency.
7. Avoid Overthinking Straightforward Questions
The high-pressure test environment can sometimes cause people to overanalyze questions that seem too straightforward. Don’t let self-doubt lead you to overthink simple points. If a question seems easy with an obvious answer, don’t talk yourself into second-guessing.
Choose the first sensible answer and move on. Doubting and changing answers often leads people astray on clear questions.
8. Manage Fatigue and Stay Focused
Standardized tests are mentally grueling and require sustaining focus for a long time. Counter mental fatigue by eating a healthy energy-boosting snack like fruit during breaks to replenish. If concentration is waning later in the test, take a moment to re-energize before continuing.
Take a deep breath, stretch discreetly, or go to the bathroom to get blood flowing. Get back on track before progressing.
9. Don’t Leave Questions Blank at the end
Try to answer every single question on the test if possible. There is no penalty for making an intelligent guess because the majority of standardized tests do not subtract points for wrong responses. Even if totally unsure, use logic to make an educated guess. Something is typically better than nothing.
Leaving questions blank is squandering an opportunity. If you have time, go back over skipped questions before the section ends.
10. Double Check Test Booklet Matches Answer Sheet
Before turning in your test materials, take a minute to verify your test booklet pages match correctly with your answer sheet. Getting sequences flipped can invalidate otherwise good work.
Ensure test booklet pages correspond accurately to the blocks of answers. Catching small mismatches now avoids throwing off your score over careless errors.
By learning from the common mistakes of others and being diligent in your own test preparation, you can master strategies to avoid errors and demonstrate your full abilities on test day.
Avoiding common test day errors like these can help you showcase your full abilities on SATs, GREs, and other major exams for scholarships and getting you your best score You can ace these pivotal tests for scholarship opportunities with focus, planning, and practice.