How I Overcame Test Anxiety And Actionable Strategies High School Students Can Use To Ace Standardized Exams By Dr. Shaan Patel, MD, MBA 


How I Overcame Test Anxiety And Actionable Strategies High School Students Can Use To Ace Standardized Exams By Dr. Shaan Patel, MD, MBA 

My Own Battle with Test Anxiety 

My journey from an average SAT scorer to achieving a perfect score and eventually founding Prep Expert has been both challenging and enlightening. Along this path, one of the most significant hurdles I faced was test anxiety—a common issue that many students encounter. Overcoming this barrier not only transformed my approach to standardized exams but also reshaped my perspective on learning and success. 

Like many students, I experienced intense pressure when it came to standardized testing. The fear of underperforming or not meeting my own expectations led to a cycle of stress and anxiety, which, ironically, hindered my ability to perform well. Recognizing this pattern was the first step toward overcoming it. 

Acknowledging that test anxiety was more than just nerves—it was a significant obstacle to my success—was crucial. I realized that to change my scores, I first needed to change my approach to testing, which included managing my anxiety. 

I learned that conquering test anxiety required a comprehensive strategy, focusing not only on studying the material but also on enhancing my overall well-being and test-taking skills. 

Actionable Strategies for High School Students 

Foster Efficient Study Habits 

Efficient study habits form the foundation of test preparation. I discovered the power of targeted practice and the importance of understanding the exam format. Utilizing official practice questions produced by the test creator and avoiding generic strategies not tailored to the test were game-changers. These practices ensure that your study sessions are both effective and reflective of the actual exam conditions. 

Transform Your Approach to Learning 

Beyond studying smarter, transforming your approach to learning involves embracing mistakes as learning opportunities. Keeping an “insight notebook” to jot down errors and revisiting them helped solidify my understanding and adjust my strategies accordingly.

Enhance Your Physical and Brain Health 

The connection between physical health and cognitive performance cannot be overstated. Regular exercise and a healthy diet play a crucial role in managing stress and improving brain function. During my test preparation, incorporating daily physical activity was instrumental in reducing my anxiety and enhancing my focus. 

Manage Technological Distractions 

In today’s digital age, smartphones and social media can significantly distract from study time. Learning to turn off technology while studying allowed me to concentrate fully on the task at hand, reducing stress and improving my study efficiency. 

Build Self-Motivation 

Self-motivation is perhaps the most crucial element in overcoming test anxiety. For me, focusing on my “why”—the reasons behind my goal of acing the SAT (or any standardized test)—provided the drive and resilience needed to push through challenging moments. Setting specific, actionable goals and visualizing success can similarly inspire students to stay motivated and overcome anxiety. 

Practice Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques 

Incorporating mindfulness and relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga, helped me manage anxiety symptoms before and during the exam. These practices can center your mind, reduce stress levels, and improve concentration, allowing you to approach the test with a calm and focused demeanor. 

Simulate Test Conditions 

Regularly practicing under simulated test conditions—timed sessions, using official test materials, and mimicking the exam environment—can significantly reduce test-day anxiety. Familiarity breeds confidence, and by making the practice conditions as close to the actual test as possible, I was able to desensitize myself to the pressures of the exam day. 

Embrace a Growth Mindset 

Lastly, adopting a growth mindset—the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication and hard work—empowered me to view each practice session and every mock exam as an opportunity to grow and improve. This mindset shift was pivotal in overcoming my test anxiety and achieving my goals. 


Overcoming test anxiety and excelling in standardized exams is a multifaceted process that involves more than just mastering the test content. It requires a holistic approach that includes developing efficient study habits, managing stress and health, minimizing distractions, and fostering a positive and motivated mindset. By implementing these strategies, I transformed my approach to testing and learning, ultimately achieving success beyond my SAT scores. I encourage all students facing similar challenges to embrace these strategies, persevere, and unlock their full potential on standardized exams and beyond. 


Dr. Shaan Patel, MD, MBA is founder and CEO of Prep Expert. As seen on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” Prep Expert is a leading education company that has helped more than 100,000 students improve their SAT and ACT scores, get into top colleges, and win over $100 million in scholarships. Dr. Patel raised his own SAT score from average to perfect, has 20+ years experience with SAT prep, and has authored over 15 test prep books, including his newest #1 Bestseller Prep Expert Digital SAT Playbook. A board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Patel was named one of Inc. Magazine’s “30 Under 30.” He holds degrees from Yale and the University of Southern California.

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