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June 25, 2015
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July 9, 2015

How To Break Through Mental Barriers And Myths About Test Taking

“Some people are just not good test takers.” Have you heard this phrase before? Have you used this phrase before?

This is one of the most common reasons given for why the SAT is not a good indicator of college readiness or future college success. You may even call your self a “bad test-taker.”According to research regarding stereotypes, it appears that this label alone may be one of the biggest barriers to performing well on the SAT.

Maybe you are not a bad test-taker, maybe you have been called that or labeled yourself that and as a result you live into the label.

The Science

A study by The Harvard University Department of Psychology regarding stereotypes and test performance found that when participants had a certain stereotype “activated”they were more likely to perform according to what the stereotype predicted. The study used the example of the stereotype of Asian Americans being good at quantitative tasks, while women are worse at quantitative tasks than men. The study stated, “We found that Asian-American women performed better on a mathematics test when their ethnic identity was activated, but worse when their gender identity was activated, compared with a control group who had neither identity activated”It was thinking about the stereotype that dictated how well the participants performed rather than their actual skill.

Your Biggest Mental Barriers

Thinking you are a bad test-taker might be one of your biggest mental barriers to performing well on the SAT. According to this study if you or someone else tells you that you are bad or good at something, you will perform accordingly. Confidence is one of the greatest keys to performing well on the SAT.

Learned Skills

Some people may be naturally inclined toward having the problem solving skills and critical thinking that are required to do well on exams, but everyone can learn those skills. Start telling yourself you are a good test-taker and you can learn to be even better. Familiarizing yourself with the language and style of the test, as well as the content will help you become a good test-taker.


If you are a parent, encourage your student instead of pointing out faults. Give them examples of where they have excelled in the past rather than reminding students of where they have failed. You can help them with weak areas, but also constantly remind your student that they can become a great test-taker.

Other Perceptions

This also applies to other stereotypes or assumptions, such as “I am bad at math”or “I can’t comprehend difficult reading passages.”With a positive attitude and plenty of work, you can learn and retain the necessary material and do well in subject areas that have been difficult for you in the past.

Positive Thinking and Hard Work

Positive thinking alone won’t automatically result in a good score on the SAT. However, negative thinking can certainly hinder your performance. To have the confidence you need to be a good test-taker you need to prepare in advance. Study your weak subject areas and know the material inside and out. You may also want to work with a coach to learn all of the methods, tips and tricks for becoming a good test-taker.

If you think of yourself as a bad test-taker, stop! Start working now to become a good test-taker and start calling yourself one. The skills acquired to become a good test-taker will continue to help you as you move on to higher education and into the work force. Everyone needs critical thinking and problem solving skills. Everyone needs to learn to focus under pressure. Before you take the SAT find ways to improve your confidence and become and excellent test taker!


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Mr. Test Prep strives to prepare students with his Los Altos SAT Prep program. When students engage in his Los Altos SAT Prep program their scores reflect the hard work and dedication put forth. Call Mr. Test Prep today and be prepared!

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