Posted by Julia Wasson

Nov 18, 2014 11:17:00 AM

Avoiding needless mistakes on college entrance exams may seem like common sense. Even experienced test takers, however, may make several typical errors when taking their college entrance exams. Ensure your teen is aware of the following 10 testing roadblocks before entering the testing room:

Mistake #1: Not being familiar with test directions.
The test directions are the same on every form of a college entrance exam. Why waste precious time reading them on test day? Students need to know them before they go.

Mistake #2: Not knowing fundamental rules and processes.
From foundational math formulas and processes to basic grammar rules, your student should know the fundamentals going into the test and be prepared to use them effectively. If your teen has taken a traditional series of college preparatory courses, he should have learned all this information in class and will only need to review.

Mistake #3: Not having proper time-management techniques.
PSAT/SAT and ACT prep classes focus a portion of the coaching sessions on time management skills. Of course, it’s important to get to the test early and pay attention to start-and-stop times for each test section. Your teen should also know the most effective strategies for pacing on each of the subject-area subtests so she has ample opportunity to demonstrate her abilities on the exam. 

Mistake #4: Not looking out for the particular challenges inherent in each subject-area subtest.
Your student’s ACT or PSAT/SAT prep should provide strategies for each test section and type of question. For example, “Read the question first” is great advice for the math portion of college entrance exams but not such a good recommendation, in most cases, for the reading sections. 

Mistake #5: Not being physically prepared.
Late-night cram sessions fueled by soda and junk food aren’t setting your student up for a successful test day. Adequate sleep, hydration, and healthy food, however, make a big performance difference. Taking practice tests also helps to build endurance for test day so your student is able to stay alert the entire time.

Mistake #6: Not answering the question being asked.
It’s common for questions on college entrance exams to be worded in a way that requires the test taker to read very carefully and thoroughly. Careless reading can easily lead to answering the wrong question. Your student must be able to understand the questions as presented and answer them accordingly. 

Mistake #7: Not marking up the test booklet.
Several effective tips involve making specific types of notes in the text. Encourage your student to mark up the testing booklet to eliminate answer choices, do calculations, and mark important words and phrases in a question or passage. The booklet is the only “scratch paper” provided, even for math problems.

Mistake #8: Not wearing a watch.
A watch is an effective tool to help your student know the stop time and also to implement a time-management plan during the test. With the increasing use of mobile phones, many students no longer carry a watch. Students won’t be able to use a phone to check the time on test day, however, and the clock in the testing room, if there is one, may not be reliable or in a convenient location. 

Mistake #9: Not knowing how or when to guess.
ACT and PSAT/SAT prep classes show your student if, when, and how to skip difficult questions and revisit them later to try again. Test takers also need to know when it is to their advantage to guess if they don’t know the answer and how to apply partial knowledge to improve their odds of guessing correctly.

Mistake #10: Not maintaining composure.
With a lack of adequate preparation, it’s easy for a student to panic on test day. If your student does the work and takes the time to practice, he will have a confident and positive attitude when that day arrives.

College entrance exams don’t have to result in pressure-filled months of useless worry and unfocused studying techniques. When your student goes into his or her test prep with a systematic, discerning approach, taking the real test won’t seem nearly so daunting.

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