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Test Anxiety: How to Overcome and Score

Test anxiety: Reality or fiction?

Some medical professionals attribute exam or test anxiety to a host of real-world circumstances: lack of preparation, overstimulation, anxiety, depression, worry and dread. On the other hand, others believe test anxiety is the result of somatization, “the production of recurrent and multiple medical symptoms with no discernible organic cause.” In other words, there is no concrete or discernable cause of the condition. “It’s just in your head,” as they say.

Test Anxiety: The Symptoms and The Consequences

Regardless of its origin, test anxiety is a condition that wreaks havoc on many students. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of American, physical symptoms range from headaches and nausea to rapid or irregular heart beat. The emotional trauma of panic and helplessness combined with poor concentration and self-doubt stymie a test-taker’s abilities to recall, analyze and evaluate, academic skills a student has previously mastered over the course of many years. These critical thinking techniques become irretrievable once the daunting exam begins. A sensation of drowning overtakes the brain and the situation rapidly descends into a mental “game over.”

The outcomes vary. Students may:

  • Fail the test
  • Experience a panic attack
  • Stop the test before they finish
  • Feel permanently discouraged and frustrated

Is There a “Cure” for Test Anxiety?

Cure? There is no magic blue pill. But there are numerous ways to effectively manage test anxiety.

  1. Meditation and Breathing

Check out Project Meditation, a website/ app that offers short, but effective 8-10 minute guided meditation exercises that focus on breathing, counting and visualization. Here’s a snippet”

Using your imagination, see yourself arriving at your college campus on the morning of an important exam. You smell clean cut grass and the sun is shining on a mildly warm morning. In your hands, you have exactly what you need for the exam, and in your mind, you are feeling strong and confident.

Additional meditation for test anxiety websites and resources include:

2. Walking and Exercising

Blow off some steam. The Mayo Clinic recommends “regular aerobic exercise, and exercising on exam day, can release tension.” 10-15 minutes before an exam should do it!

3. Eat Well, Sleep Well, Be Well

This sounds easier than it is for many of us, but students can choose to:

  • Abstain from that extra caffeine in the morning before an exam and select a healthier, less stimulating apple or granola bar.
  • Establish a morning routine- Exercise, eat breakfast, review your daily schedule or exam notes.
  • Establish an evening routine- Avoid electronics one hour before bedtime, engage in some light reading or another soothing activity to calm the nerves.

4. The 4 P’s of Productive Business- Preparation, Planning, Practice and Performance

This philosophy applies to almost any successful endeavor; managing test anxiety is no exception.


  • Find a qualified tutor, teacher or test prep instructor.
  • Secure funding for test prep or testing fee waivers.
  • Research and compile relevant materials, prep books, class notes, etc.


  • Select and register for a target test-date (SAT or ACT).
  • Review your course syllabus, and map midterm and final exam dates.
  • Plan to take a standardized test more than once.
  • Ask teachers and professors about extra credit.
  • Determine how many weeks or months you should plan to study.
  • Decide if a group crash course or study group at school will work, or if you work better with a one-on-one expert.


  • Review relevant notes, handouts and previous homework and/or classwork assignments.
  • Rework old problems.
  • Complete as many drills, quizzes and practices tests as you can.


  • Set up or register for a timed mock-exam, maybe two.
  • Avoid rigorous mental activities the day before the exam.
  • Get those routines, mediation and exercise going.
  • Take a deep breath, or 10!

The best advice is to be as prepared as possible, and if you don’t see the results you want on an exam, take note of what went well, and what didn’t. Most importantly, keep trying and make adjustments as needed.

Stay tuned for our next publication!

The Test Prep Lowdown: Why It’s Important

The Test Prep Lowdown- A Brief Summary

Even when your student’s school is nothing short of excellent, it’s difficult for schools to meet every academic intricacy of every student. Unfortunately, this becomes clear when universities compare the scores of those students who’ve pursued test prep and those who haven’t. While students who aren’t versed in the art of test taking may revisit key academic concepts in class, students who have access to a qualified test prep teacher benefit more from the insights of one-on-one coaching with an expert. An excellent test prep instructor, such as our professionals here at Hawk Educational Solutions, will identify where your student’s test taking needs are and where they already excel.

Using their discoveries, test prep instructors create a personalized program that facilitates your student’s success on college entrance exams. Qualified instructors also help your child adapt to the testing format, which means students walk into their test fully prepared for what’s ahead.

Research demonstrates that there’s a statistically significant difference between those who’ve completed a private one-on-one test prep program. According to a 2015 Johns Hopkins University study, individual, private test prep works for students of all backgrounds while large cram classes and school led test prep seminars are generally ineffective for the the majority of students. After engaging in custom SAT and ACT prep sessions, students who take college entrance exams for the second time significantly exceed their original scores, anywhere from 50-300 points on the SAT.

Test Prep LowDown- Is This Really Necessary?

But really, why bother? For many, test prep is expensive, time consuming and a useless added obstacle barring college entrance. Let’s address all three concerns:

  • Test prep is expensive, but its worth it. According to Cost Helper Education, “Private tutoring for the SAT typically costs $75-$250 per hour.” To minimize costs, students should do more work on their own, and pair up or join a small group.
  • Test prep is time consuming? Of course it is, but anything worth achieving generally is. So how often and how much time should a student devote to his endeavor?

Prep Expert

You should study for the SAT every day over the course of a few months. Make the SAT your biggest priority after family and school work, and do your studying on a consistent schedule. You should also take timed practice tests on a weekly basis.
  • The SAT and ACT are nonsense tests designed to impede the collegiate aspirations of our youth. This is a half-truth: While the SAT and ACT do function as the gatekeepers to college acceptance (to an extent), they do perform a vital function. Since not all schools are equal, not all grades or GPA’s are either. As a result, most universities require a “standard” means to measure skills and abilities whereby they can more accurately compare applicants.

The Importance of College Entrance Exams Beyond the Test

If you’d rather your student achieve their target score sooner rather than later, employing reputable test prep practitioners, such as Hawk Educational Solutions will work to your advantage. Together, we can ensure that your student advances toward their academic goals, making their future brighter with every test prep lesson.

The College Conundrum: Is Higher Ed Right for Me?

college consultant, college admissions essay, tutoring, test prep, scholarships, education, higher education

The contentious debate about college attendance has long circled its wagons around who is cut out for higher education and who isn’t.


Realistically, not everyone is a billionaire  “Pointdexter who’s designed to reinvent the wheel or wield his millions in order to single-handedly man the human race’s first mission to Mars. With varying levels of innate intellect, financial security and cultural privilege, a plurality of young Americans don’t look to college as their next step.


Actually, many students feel they lack the smarts, the right skin tone or the wellspring of family money it takes to pay for it all. Of course, they wonder, “Is college right for me? Is it even possible?”



There are those of us who must “put the pedal to the metal” and lean into a rigorous course load, like the University of California’s a-g curriculum, which may be beyond our intellectual prowess at first. We have to work harder to perform half as well.


Furthermore, students must have the opportunity to challenge themselves. If they attend overcrowded, underfunded high schools, how can they work hard to achieve if they don’t have a class in which they can achieve?


The National Association of Secondary Principals (NASSP) contends that every student, regardless of natural ability or privileged status, should be encouraged to engage in an academically demanding high school curriculum in preparation for higher education.


Raising expectations for all students to enroll in rigorous courses, including AP, dual-credit courses, or the International Baccalaureate, is crucial, particularly for students who have historically been under-represented in those courses. In too many schools, high-level courses are open to only a select group of high-achieving students, thus perpetuating historical inequalities in academic outcomes.


Simply put, all students require adequate resources and high academic expectations to encourage their aspirations toward higher education.


Furthermore, a high IQ and deep pockets are not the sole markers of academic success; some educators argue that students who possess curiosity and dedication are on par with the naturally brilliant and the fortunately wealthy. According to the Atlantic’s scholarly article, “Schools Are Missing What Matters About Learning,” “Having a ‘hungry mind’ has been shown to be a core determinant of academic achievement, rivaling the prediction power of IQ.”


With the right combination of equitable resources, motivation from family and school leaders, and the qualities of determination and curiosity, college can be more than a mere pipe dream.


With that said, experts of every discipline argue college isn’t for everyone. Numerous publications from the New York Times and Forbes to Robert Reich, the Brookings Institution and National Association of Scholars have all bolstered the notion that college is not the right move for certain demographics: the poor, minority groups, gifted athletes, average students, or the mechanically inclined.


Without doubt, college is a pricy and demanding investment. Perhaps a 4-year degree isn’t for everyone…


But, the argument against college includes a laundry list of half-truths at best. Here’s a smattering.


“College is too expensive. I’m better off without the debt.”

Everyone is better off without debt, but scholarships, grants, smart financial planning, and work-study programs are abundant and will offset the cost.

College is rife with “liberal” ideology.

           In some corners, but not all. Try accounting or business.

College education hasn’t solved every social ill and cultural inequity.

Let’s get everyone a higher education and then reexamine the issue. Only 33.4% of the adult population has earned a 4-year degree or higher according to the US  Census Bureau.

The good schools are only meant for rich kids.

             Not at accredited public universities

Over 40% of college graduates land jobs outside their fields of study.

             College grads have a higher likelihood of landing a decent paying job in general. Why should it matter if the job differs from the degree?

I’m self-taught. I don’t need college to teach me what I already know.

             Aren’t we all self-taught? And Don’t we all know what we already know?



Ultimately, the consensus in the anti-college camp is that trade school or vocational training is the better alternative. By all means, some people are certainly more mechanically inclined or “good with their hands,” and clearly not everyone is an intellectual giant.


But, isn’t it possible that some college, outside of vocational school, is indeed right for most students?


  • What if students, who are not convinced by the 4-year degree trajectory, completed the equivalent of an associate’s degree?


  • What if these students had a genuine experience exploring various fields, philosophies, and disciplines as young adults through a community college general education program that exposes them to numerous schools of thought and career options?


  • What if the cost of a community college education were affordable? What if students could complete a 2-year program debt free?


  • What if all young adults had the benefit of a thorough civic education, which is not adequately addressed in secondary school?


Wouldn’t students be better prepared to make the decision among plumbing, philosophy or biomechanics as the best career path once they’ve investigated them first hand as adults?


The decision too often comes down to the difference between a short-term paycheck and higher education’s long-term payoff.


So, imagining that there are solutions to all of the barriers blocking our leap toward higher education, let’s highlight

10 essential benefits of a college education:


  1. You are more employable, within and outside of your major of study.

  2. You are more employable internationally. Unless you’re a celebrated chef or renowned athlete, international employers want to see a college education on the American resume.

  3. Over the course of a lifetime, you will earn a higher income.

  4. You will harness a greater understanding of society and how to navigate it.

  5. Your literacy in many aspects of life will improve.

  6. You will learn about reality beyond the narrow lens of your job.

  7. That degree or “piece of paper” demonstrates you’ve accomplished something difficult, which builds confidence and character.

  8. You will build financial and social networks that may endure over your lifetime.

  9. You’ll have access to university resources, such as healthcare, career readiness and job connections you wouldn’t otherwise have.

  10.  Learning is a good thing.

There will always be exceptions, but there is far more to gain from a college education at an accredited university than there is to lose.


Stay tuned for more on the education front during this holiday season!

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