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Sustain Stamina during Standardized Tests


Standardized Test Prep MS/HS/College Strategy


Working Memory Attention Processing Speed

Sustain Stamina during Standardized Tests

If your student is taking the ACT or SAT and tends to "run out of gas" towards the end of a subject test or on the final subject test


  1. Taking lots of practice tests will help. Like running a marathon, you need to build up your stamina for a 3-4 hour standardized test. You also might need to build up stamina for individual subject tests depending on your interest, what you find challenging, and the order you will need to take that test.
  2. As you get closer to test day, budget time for full length practice tests so that you get used to the timing and feel for the full test.
  3. Analyze your performance on the practice tests as you go. Keep track of when you got tired. You want to balance your energy so you are not using up too much energy on the earlier questions and are just too tired to show your best work at the end.
  4. Have strategies for when you lose focus or are getting tired, such as a small stretch or taking deep breaths to help you refocus and get back to the test.
  5. Plan the week before the test so you are eating and sleeping well every night, not just the night before the test.

On Test Day

  1. Choose a seat with few potential distractions if you can. Know what distracts you. Consider if you want to be away from the window? Away from the proctor where others might be asking questions? Away from friends? If you can't avoid a potential distraction have a plan for how you will NOT allow yourself to be distracted.
  2. When you sit down, organize everything you need for the test so it is easily accessible. You don't want to waste energy rummaging for extra pencils once the test starts.
  3. Eat energizing food for breakfast and during each break. Even if you are not hungry, force yourself to eat. Your brain needs good food to be at its best. Snacking between subject tests will make sure you do not run out of energy on the last subject tests.
  4. Have a stress ball to balance your energy. If you tend to begin with lots of energy and then trail off, use a stress ball to calm yourself down and manage your energy level.
  5. Always get up and stretch during breaks. This will get your blood flowing and keep your mind more alert.
  6. If you find your energy depleting, stretch in your seat. A simple stretch of the arms, shaking out your legs, or even forcing yourself to yawn can give your brain the jolt it needs.
  7. Talk to yourself. Motivate yourself with phrases like, "I know I can do this," "Don't give up," "Keep going". You know it helps when coaches tell you this on the field. It will work when you do it yourself too.

Stamina By Subject

  1. Know the test instructions for each section so you don't need to read them on test day.
  2. English/Language: The more automatic ideas are the less mental energy you will need so memorize grammar rules and just learn to quickly recognize different problem types. More English Strategies
  3. Math: (a) The more automatically you know Math Formulas the less energy you will require per question. Consider memorizing formulas even if you know they will be given so you can save time and energy. Since the questions go in order of difficulty, if you know you might have stamina problems keep in mind how much energy you will need to save for the harder problems so you can budget your time. If you are feeling tired, write down all your work. You are less likely to make errors when you write it out even if it takes more time. More Math Strategies
  4. Reading: Prioritize reading passages. You might want to do the most challenging one first so you have the most mental energy. You might want to do it last if you think it will be difficult to get through no matter when you read it. If you are taking the ACT, keep in mind Reading is third and you might be tired from the start. Some students prefer the SAT because the Reading section is first when they have the most energy. Consider annotating if you are feeling tired. It can help reduce your mind wandering. More Reading Strategies
  5. Science: Keep in mind this is the last test and likely the most difficulty to sustain your stamina. You might decide to put less effort into preparation if you know you are likely to have limited energy to do your best. Consider annotating if you are feeling tired. It can help reduce your mind wandering. More Science Strategies
  6. Use the pacing strategies to identify a target number of questions by subject test