11/19/2014 02:10 pm ET Updated Jan 19, 2015

What to Do if it Feels Like You Are Running Out of Time on Your SAT/ACT Test Prep

Well, it's official. With Daylight Savings Time behind us and the Winter Solstice approaching, the days are starting to feel shorter. Much shorter.

All the while, the Dec. 6th SAT and Dec. 13th ACT probably feel like they are approaching more and more quickly.

Together, these two phenomena might have you seniors feeling like there's a countdown clock looming over you.

"Am I running out of time?" you think.

" ... Well? Am I?"

Chances are, the "I'm running out of time" concept is creating a good amount of anxiety for you--often manifested physically through a knotted stomach, tightened chest, or clenched throat and manifested mentally through racing thoughts, mood swings, and an inability to focus ... none of which is helpful for your test prep, schoolwork, or general sense of wellbeing.

Saving the philosophical conversations (What is "time," anyway?) for another day, let's discuss this in practical terms.

There are, in fact, only so many days between now and Dec. 6th or 13th.

So, are you running out of time? That's one way to look at it. Another way to look at it is that you have only so many days between today and the test date. If you do at least one thing for your prep every day, there are that many opportunities to dedicate time and energy to your success. How do you make the most of it?

Start with a plan.

Make a list of your obligations between now and then. Take your calendar and schedule in all of the obligations -- academic, extracurricular, and otherwise -- the dates of which you already know. Figure out when you will have extra time. (Thanksgiving break, anyone?)

Use this combination to schedule at least two full practice tests -- ideally, in the morning at the same time that you will take the official test.

Then, schedule additional practice sessions to score the test and review wrong answers. Take time to study the content (vocab, math rules, and English grammar rules) -- both in scheduled study sessions and intermittently throughout the day. Schedule in days when you can run drills or practice individual sections.

Then, when those feelings of panic arise, you can remind yourself that you have a plan, and you are doing everything in your power to implement it.

Furthermore, remember to give yourself opportunities to relax and practice mindfulness techniques, like walking outside or meditating. At first such activities may seem to be taking time away from your to-do list, but in actuality they are helping you to maximize the time that you spend on your to-do list by giving your body and mind a chance to rest, recharge, and process all of the stress that has been accumulating throughout the day.

Creating a plan helps you create possibilities.

Remember, everything doesn't have to happen in one day, but a lot can happen in a short amount of time -- especially when you are focused and clear.


Erika Oppenheimer is an SAT and ACT test prep coach. She works with students from across the country on a mindful approach to test prep.

For more great resources from Erika, including her free Organize Your Test Prep e-mail and PDF series, visit