The ACT and Teen Stress

Posted on May 14, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Our 17 year old daughter, a junior in high school, just took the ACT test. For an entire week prior to the test, she walked, talked, and breathed the ACT. “Mom, this is the most important test I’ll ever take. It determines my entire future.”

Who says teen life isn’t stressful? Imposing so much pressure on the score of one single test would be enough to send us all over the edge, and juniors in high school are no exception. 

What did I do? I told her not to worry. That’s right. The teachers were putting enough pressure on the kids to perform well on the test. There was plenty of that to go around, so I chose to create balance. “Don’t worry. If you don’t do well the first time, you can always take it again.” I also reminded her that stress usually creates lower scores, not higher ones (and I gave her a pretty good breakfast as a special treat on testing day).

Here’s a revised version of an article I wrote when I applied as a writer for Examiner.com this morning (Cross your fingers that I get the gig):

Mastering tests is one of the biggest academic challenges some high school students face. Among them are traditional subjects like algebra, biology, English, and foreign languages, but one of the most important tests teenagers take is the ACT. This college entrance exam is also one of the most stressful tests they will ever take in their high school career.

A student’s ACT score is a significant factor in being accepted by the college of their choice, and for some, the degree, program or trade they wish to enter. For this reason, a great deal of self-imposed importance is placed on the ACT by high school juniors. Teens are aware that their score on this one test will greatly impact their future. Factor in the daily reminders and pressures imposed by six different teachers every day for a week prior to the test, and it’s not surprising that these college entrance exams produce high anxiety levels on students.

To help teenagers deal with this stress and anxiety, teachers and parents should work together to prepare students for the exam, while reducing other pressures and promoting relaxation exercises. Introducing different study techniques can also reduce stress by making learning and studying a fun and cooperative exercise. For example, high school students might participate in a study group which holds mock “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” games, using ACT review questions in the game. This would make the review an enjoyable one, and as a bonus, it could help some retain the information better. 

Parents should also encourage relaxation, time away from studying, physical exercise, and good eating habits. By eating healthy foods, teens will eliminate sugar highs (and subsequent crashes) and walk into the testing room without caffeine-induced jitters. A strong dose of encouragement will also provide them with some much-needed support.

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