This month’s sage strategies regard fueling up on test day. These are the best tips from NTPA experts in the field. What information stands out to you? Do any guarantee success—or failure?
We welcome your comments below!
Laura Link of Link Private Tutoring:
On test day, students should eat good carbs, good fats, and proteins. One of my most important pieces of advice as far as test nutrition goes is to stay with your caffeine routine. If you normally have caffeine have the same amount you normally do. If you don’t usually drink a Red Bull in the morning, this is not the time to experiment with it.
Suggestion #1: The morning of a standardized test is NOT the time to decide to “get healthy” and go off caffeine. If you have been drinking coffee, cola, or energy drinks every (school) morning for the past two weeks or more, your body is DEPENDING on that caffeine. You do NOT want to go through caffeine withdrawal on the morning of a standardized test.Suggestion #2: Do NOT overdo it on drinking water. Yes, the brain needs hydration to function well, and no, your proctor will likely NOT let you leave while a test is in progress. Know yourself. Will you REALLY be able to make it to the bathroom break halfway through the test?
I have always been a big proponent of a high-protein breakfast on test day. My go-to tends to be two eggs and an english muffin with a little bit of jam. The eggs keep you full for hours. If you are not an egg fan, I also recommend farmer cheese with a slab of jelly slabbed atop it. Again, you get the protein with a hint of sweetness.Lastly, if you are not a protein person, my last go-to recipe is oatmeal (not instant), chopped apple, some chopped walnuts and PB2. Add about 1 cup of water, microwave at 50% for 15 minutes. It is warm, delicious, filling and healthy.
Drink a glass of water as soon as you get out of bed. Your body is mostly water, and your brain has an even higher water content—75%. A well-hydrated body and mind will work better and be healthier. It will also reduce anxiety. Eat a relatively big healthy breakfast. Fats and proteins will digest more slowly and keep you full longer. You should also have carbs for energy, but stay away from the sugar so your blood-sugar level does not spike, then crash. A good sample breakfast is bacon and eggs with oatmeal. Only drink coffee if it is already part of your morning routine. Bring snacks and a bottle of water. Granola bars and protein bars are good. Again, stay away from the sugar.
Food to bring to the testing center:
• A cut up apple: This fruit is a great source of energy because it provides fiber, B vitamins, and potassium (among other great benefits such as flavanols, or antioxidants). Fiber stabilizes energy throughout the day, and B vitamins help turn food into energy.
• Trail mix, especially those that contain cashews, almonds, and/or hazelnuts: Nuts are rich in protein and magnesium. Protein contributes calories without overloading on carbs (too many carbs can cause drowsiness) and magnesium helps convert sugar into energy.
• Dark chocolate: A fantastic snack that, in addition to a lot of other great benefits, increases blood flow to the brain (and the heart), stimulates the brain to release endorphins which improve mood, and contains a small amount of caffeine which can help students stay alert without making them jittery.
• Water: It is very important to stay hydrated. Even mild dehydration decreases energy.
[C]onsumption of a cocoa drink rich in flavanols boosted blood flow to key areas of the brain for two to three hours. Dark chocolate happens to be rich in flavanols, as are blueberries, green tea and red wine; guess which one of these items we don’t recommend for test day.
It’s all about status quo. If you drink coffee every morning, don’t stop. If you don’t drink coffee, don’t start. Make any changes AFTER the test. Bring water and a snack, even if you think you won’t need it. You don’t want surprise hunger distracting you on the last section!
You definitely need to eat, so don’t skip eating, but if you have a nervous stomach, you do not want to risk having issues at the test. When I personally go in to take the SAT or ACT, I am nervous enough that all I eat is bread and a little water or juice (I call this the prison diet), and I don’t even have anything but personal pride riding on these tests anymore!