When you’re looking to improve your ACT or SAT score by just a point or two, it often comes down not to how much you study, but it rather comes down to luck–or your ability to play mind games to mentally prepare yourself better than ever before.
Achieving the score you aim for can be aided by pre-SAT/ACT rituals (although not scientifically proven nor endorsed by The Prospect). Here are a few logical pre-test rituals that could be worth a try (and who knows, they might make the difference between your current score and your dream score):
1. Take a quick jog. When you wake up in the morning, activate your brain cells and wake up your body (both mentally and physically) by participating in some form of exercise for about 10 minutes–enough to reap the benefits, but not enough to make you tired. You’ll end up feeling much more refreshed.
2. Eat blueberries. Blueberries themselves aren’t going to boost your test scores alone, but adding them (excessively) to your diet can possibly improve your brain activity and aid your memory. It’s worth a shot.
3. Wake up with plenty of time to spare. Don’t hit the “snooze” button when you hear it go off. You might think just 10 more minutes of sleep will help you, but it won’t. Wake up right away, and plan on waking up about an hour before you have to leave for the test. This will allow for enough time for you to completely wake up and not go into the test feeling half-asleep and groggy.
4. Read something. Pick up the newspaper or your favorite book, but don’t let the SAT/ACT be the first thing you read in the morning. Read for a few minutes before leaving to take the test and gauge your comprehension.
5. Chew gum during the test. Chewing gum will often help keep people focused. Better yet, chew a certain flavor of gum while studying for the SAT/ACT and chew it again while taking the test; supposedly flavor recognition aids in memory retention.
6. Bribe yourself. Tell yourself beforehand that once you finish the test, you can have a nice Chipotle lunch or some other reward that you can look forward through when you start to lose focus during your test.
7. Engage in positive thinking or meditation. Listen to music. Go through those oh-so-inspiring quotes on Pinterest or Tumblr. Take a second to prioritize your life and just breathe (really breathe, not just shallow-hyperventilating-pre-SAT/ACT-breathing).
8. Create your own ritual. The most important plan is to create your own test-morning plan because really, it’s all just a mind game. Have a plan of what’s going to help you reach your A-game, and stick with your plan. They can be logical or just downright superstitious–whatever you think may help. Here are some idea from The Prospect’s very own.
Fellow high school senior and intern, Jenny Zhang, says she, “…always eats a hard boiled egg for breakfast. I also always have seven pencils sharpened and ready. I always wear the same outfit. I also have my hair in a bun using my lucky hair tie. My friend always gives herself a pep talk before each section and trash-talks the test.”
Lydia Han, high school senior and intern, echoes the same sentiments, stating, “I have this set of pencils that my older sister bought for me, and they have all of these explicit motivational sayings, my favorite of which is: ‘Get Sh*t Done.’ So for the two times that I took the SAT, I would keep the orange pencil in front of me and look at it from time to time when I felt stuck on a question. Needless to say, that pencil was part of my success during the testings, and I almost got a perfect score in the end.”
Are you a foodie with a problem? Don’t worry, intern and high school junior Jasmine Malhi knows exactly what you mean. “I always work out for 10 minutes to wake me up. I shower, and then eat my breakfast always an egg with a bagel. Then, I always get a Skinny Grande Vanilla Latte from Starbucks before getting to my SAT. I always chew peppermint gum (5 gum cobalt) during my SAT.”
Intern and high school senior Cary Zhang epitomizes all standardized testing traditions, saying, “I have a lucky necklace that I always wore, always wore my hair in a braid for the practice and real tests, always ate a couple of almonds before starting the test, and always brought eight pencils even though I knew I would only need at most like three.”
Whatever your plan may be, just remember that the score of your test does depend on how well you are mentally prepared for it. Once you view it as just another mind game, it’s pretty easy to beat.