Last Updated On: May 17th, 2020

Three scary letters: S-A-T. And, no, I don’t mean the abbreviation for the word “Saturday.” I mean the standardized test high-schoolers take to obtain admission to colleges and universities. Talk to almost anybody who’s taken it and almost anybody who’s about to take it, and you’ll realize that fear plays huge, memorable part in the SAT experience.

Let’s dispel this fear. Usually, when we are afraid of something that we have to do, it’s because we don’t know what will happen and we use our imagination to create a negative scenario in our mind. But often that negative scenario never happens. So all that fear turns out to be a waste of your time and a surfeit of unhappiness.

The best way to deal with fear is first to specify the negative scenarios you are creating. What exactly are you imagining? Do you imagine that you will oversleep and arrive to the test center late? Do you always picture yourself forgetting all the geometry theorems that you’ve ever learned? Do you imagine yourself accidentally skipping a question on your Scantron form, thereby incorrectly mismarking every subsequent question?

Once you’ve realized what you imagine, you realize exactly what scares you. Now you can deal with it by coming up with specific solutions to your fears. Whether you’re afraid of sentence completion problems, writing an essay, finishing the sections on time, or running out of calculator battery power, you can figure out how to solve these fears—because all these problems have solutions. And if you can’t figure out these problems, you have many people who are willing to help you: friends, parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and of course, the SAT instructors here at Fortune. (This is not mean as shameless self-promotion; it’s simply the truth. We are here to help.) Seek them out, and ask their advice.

So here’s what to do to combat your fear: ask yourself, “What do imagine will happen when I take the SAT?” Write everything down that comes to mind. Be specific. The more specific you are, the less scary the test becomes. Then, take your list and see what aspects of the test you find scary. Ask yourself, “Who can help me with these issues?”

Fear dies when you get specific and proactive. Identify the fear and then attack it. If you do, then those three little letters, “S-A-T,” become what they are and nothing more: a representation of something that can be solved.

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