Standardized Tested

Kallie Richards is a senior at John Marshall High School. This story originally appeared on the JMHS Blog.

Standardized testing… I’m truly convinced that for me, it’s the most challenging thing in the world. I’m not stupid; I am extremely proud of my grades. But, my ACT test scores aren’t exactly on my side. For some people it comes so easy to get an outstanding test score, but if you’re like me, you aren’t so lucky. I’ve taken it time after time and still haven’t achieved my goal. The ACT has given me a pretty hard time.

The first time I took the ACT I was shaking out of my skin. I could barely sleep the night before and was freaking myself out. Taking this test is one of my biggest fears.

 As you all know, the ACT is a timed test.  And if you’re like me, you’re the slowest test taker ever. Under normal circumstances, taking your time to make the best decision is totally okay, except on the ACT. My problem is I don’t know when to move on to the next problem. I fret on every question, thinking I need to get every single one right, which obviously isn’t realistic. There are four passages in the reading section, and the first time I took it I just finished the second passage when the proctor called, “Five minutes.”  That’s when I realized I definitely need to study like crazy to get better.

In addition to taking the ACT prep class at John Marshall, last November, I spent weekends taking an ACT prep class to prepare for the December test date. I was getting so much better; I was confident again and was ready to crush the ACT. I was convinced this time I’d finally reach my goal of scoring a 22 on the ACT, the all-important number that makes we students eligible to receive the West Virginia Promise scholarship. But, once again the ACT took me by surprise.

 On December 12, I had the worst luck of all. The ACT and I had a mutual hate for each other. I was off to a great start, in the zone killing the English section. This was the last ACT I would ever take.  Then, halfway through the math section, I had the strangest feeling I’ve ever encountered. My stomach was cramping, and I was sweating profusely. Maybe I was stressed about the math?  The pain escalated through the rest of the test. By the time I got to science, I was sure I was dying.  Panicked, I finished the science portion, guessing in the matter of only 10 minutes. I left immediately, hoping not to vomit all over my test booklet. I cried all the way home, driving way over the speed limit with my neighbor Kaylee in the passenger seat. Finally home, I walked through the door and threw myself on the hard wood floor screaming in pain. Next, I was in the emergency room being told I needed emergency surgery. A few hours later I was on the operating table scared out of my mind. And appendicitis was my early Christmas gift.

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To my surprise, I actually learned a pretty good lesson. I didn’t overthink the test; I just focused on finishing rather than second-guessing every answer. Believe it or not, I did better in some subjects with having appendicitis.  Go figure. So, if you have extreme test anxiety like I do, you are not alone. Take my advice:  calm down, focus on the test rather than the negative thoughts in your head, don’t be intimidated.  Remember you are smart; do not question your intelligence. 

The bad news, I didn’t get the needed 22 – Yet.

I took the ACT once again. I went in totally relaxed and confident, hoping to finally get a score high enough to qualify for the Promise Scholarship.  However, even if I don’t, I won’t give up.  I know I can do it, and I won’t let anything stop me from reaching my goal.  I’ve had a rough time with the ACT, but I won’t let standardized testing defeat me.

Kallie Richards


After taking the ACT six times, attending ACT prep classes with Mrs. Yates and Mrs. Kidd for two straight semesters, attending tutoring bright and early with Mr. Jorden in Wheeling every Saturday morning, and staying numerous hours after school with Mr. Kent trying to sharpen my skills, all of the work finally paid off.

At 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday April 19, I discovered I had scored high enough to qualify for the Promise Scholarship!  Throughout high school my main goal was to meet this requirement. The reaction on my Dad’s face when we looked at the scores will be something I’ll never forget.  But, more importantly, it shows you should never give up.

To those of you who struggle with standardized tests or any kind of coursework:  Keep putting forth effort, try different strategies, and ask for help!  I’m very thankful for the extra help from so many special, dedicated teachers.  But, in hindsight, what was even more important than the scholarship, was realizing so many other people cared about my goals.  They all spent countless hours helping me achieve a goal I had set for myself, and it shows that if you put forth the effort, ask for help when you need it, anything is possible!