SAT/ACT Guided Thinking Activity

Teachers can walk students through a guided thinking activity when preparing for the SAT or ACT.

If athletes practice mindfulness meditation for a few minutes each day, they become better able to withstand the mental demands of hours of strenuous physical training, and stress resilience. If this holds true for athletes, why can’t it hold true for students? 

Mindfulness meditation involves paying close attention to breathing and to the present moment.  When athletes practice mindful meditation, it helps to control negative thoughts and anxiety which allow them to focus on their skills in the present moment and ultimately perform better. If this works for top athletes, it can also work for students to increase their self-confidence, optimal performance, and reduce anxiety in order to perform their best when needed.

Teachers can walk students through a guided thinking activity when preparing for the SAT or ACT. The purpose is to guide students to the right mindset which will allow them to get the most out of their test preparation and be ready for the actual test day. Ultimately, learning mindfulness, and transferring and incorporating it into their daily life during stressful times can improve student cognitive outcomes, social-emotional skills, and resilience. 

Sample of Horizon Education’s Scripted Guided Thinking Activity:

  1. Get Comfortable - (approx. 1 minute)
    We’re going to do some visualization to plan for the SAT/ACT. We’re doing this because knowing what is on the test isn’t enough. Successful test takers have a plan for how they’re going to act and react during the test.
    Take a moment and get settled.

    Position your legs, arms, and head in a way that is comfortable to you . . .
  2. Relaxation - (approx. 3 minutes)
    We’re going to relax our bodies. This is going to help us focus on our purpose . . .
  3. Set Your Intention - (approx. 0.5 minutes)
    We’re here to prepare for the SAT/ACT. There are a lot of reasons that students take the SAT/ACT.  Take a moment to think about your reason for taking the SAT/ACT. Don’t make this about your family, your school, or your friends . . .
  4. Reflect on your Progress - (approx. 0.5 minutes)
    Think about what you knew before you started preparing for the SAT/ACT. Think about where you are now, and how much you’ve grown . . .
  5. Create an Emotional Plan - (approx. 2 minutes)
    Taking the SAT/ACT may be stressful. Just like athletes and performers, good test takers have a plan to handle stress. They have a plan for how they will settle their nerves . . .
  6. Create a Plan for your Testing Tools - (approx. 3 minutes)
    Think about the tools that you will bring with you on testing day. You will bring pencils, a calculator, a watch, a snack, and a drink. Think about how each of these tools will help you do your best . . Think about where you will stage your tools the night before your test. Imagine your tools lined up in a row: pencils, a calculator, a watch, a snack, and a drink . . .
  7. Create a Plan for Distractions - (approx. 1 minute)
    Let's think about some of the things that may go wrong on the SAT/ACT testing day. Thinking about these things in advance will help you prepare for distractions and stay focused. Distracted test takers forget about their relaxed breathing, strategies, and techniques they want to use on the SAT/ACT. Be prepared for distractions so you can stay focused . . .
  8. Conclude - (approx. 1 minute)
    Think about the importance of staying relaxed and focused during the test. Think of all the strategies you have learned that will help you on the test. These strategies are a gift to yourself . . .

Horizon Education’s full scripted guided thinking activity has optional sections which allow instructors to adjust the length of the activity. It may be varied and repeated as many times as appropriate for students. 

Regardless of how much time and deliberation is applied to studying, the morning of the test is when panic sets in for many students. They may feel like their minds have gone blank and they have retained none of the material they studied. Similar to an athlete, it is important to provide students with the mental tools so that they can learn to manage their own performance and create their optimal level of mental readiness. Strategies such as goal setting, imagery, thought management, and emotional control can be learned through daily guided thinking activities that incorporate these elements into assessment practice and daily routines. 

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