Forget Cramming – Prepare!  

(Dr. Clayton Lawrence, founder and CEO, shares his thoughts in a weekly column focused on

community wellness and inspiring others.)

Whether it’s common core state testing, advanced placement exams or standardized testing like the SATs or ACTs, all testing can mean the same thing – STRESS. But upcoming exams don’t have to mean cramming for nights on end only to experience test anxiety come doomsday. There are many things students can be doing – even as early as junior high – to prepare for testing that ultimately will provide a snapshot of his or her academic abilities for college placement.

Start early

SAT prep could start as early as seventh grade for those who are serious about gearing up for this junior- and senior-year testing. Laying the groundwork for a successful experience could be as simple as working with the school to become familiar with the format of the test and the ways in which students will be tested in certain subject areas. Some schools will even offer formal testing that provides a baseline score and demonstrates targeted focus areas for the years to come. Take advantage of these programs, but don’t set the bar too high. Remember, the key is to prepare so that stress is eliminated, not to cause more.

Work with a friend

Sometimes studying alone can be just plain boring. Consider a friend or two who could also use a support system in preparing for big tests. Aim to get together once or twice a week to quiz each other, provide tutoring for each other and even to use as a sounding board when frustrated. Oftentimes, when one friend is feeling confident, the other could use a boost and vice versa. It is important not only to prepare together, but sometimes just knowing that others share similar feelings of stress can offer encouragement and peace of mind.

Enroll in programs

Communities are filled with resources that can help prepare students for upcoming testing, whether it’s finals or SATs. Reach out to the local library, the school guidance counselor or area nonprofits to see what programs might be available. Working with someone in one of these areas can do wonders not only for the learning experience, but for mentorship in organizational skills, lifestyle changes and life experiences. Most students (or those they are working closely with to achieve goals) is aware of their personal areas of struggle. Create plans that will focus on these areas so that, come the big day, testing in these areas is less overwhelming.

Get plenty of sleep, eat right

Two keys to better overall health and wellness – make sleep a priority and eat a nutritious, varied diet that is rich in grains, veggies and fruits. Successful test taking doesn’t come on the heels of a night of cramming. While the grade may be acceptable, the effects of stress and sleep deprivation can have a lasting impact on physical and mental health. Stick to the same sleep routine (whether it’s the weekend or not) and head to the bed at the same time each night. Set the alarm to automatically ring at the same time each day and try not to use the snooze button. Start the day with a good breakfast that is filled with protein-rich food like egg white scramble or a smoothie; munch on snacks like almonds, peanuts and seeds when hungry; and pack the mid-day meal and supper with dark leafy greens, lean proteins, and healthy fats.