No matter how well you prepare for the SAT, there’s already enough mystery without adding to it. The more you prepare the night before the SAT for the things you can control, the more energy you can put towards the test. And the less stressed you are, the better you will do on the exam. Here are a few tips—from the night before the SAT to during the test—to help you do your best on the exam:
Success on SAT Test Day Starts the Night Before
First and foremost, try to stay in and sleep early the night before. Give your body time to get adequate rest so that you will awake refreshed and ready to conquer the exam. Go ahead and set out what you will wear and the materials you plan to take (pencils, erasers, your ID, your test ticket). Setting those out the night before will save you from hassle in the morning.
Make sure that your alarm is set to wake you up at least an hour and a half before you need to leave your home for the exam. You want to allow yourself plenty of time to hear your alarm, get dressed, pack your bag, and eat a big breakfast. Also, if you are unfamiliar with the testing location, I suggest Googling the directions beforehand. Visualizing your route and knowing how long it will take to get there will help you pace yourself and alleviate potential stressors.
DO bring a watch
The SAT’s is a strategy driven test. Each section is timed, so it is important that you pace yourself so you have time to cover each question. I personally know that my score improved from the first time I took the SATs, due to the fact that I paced my time each section and set time limits for myself.
Although the test proctor will be giving you the time periodically on the board, they don’t always update it as much as you would like—trust me! Thus, it’s helpful to wear a watch so you can track your own speed without having to ask for the time. A word of caution—avoid using those new fancy Apple watches, because it could be considered a violation of academic integrity. Instead, get a cheap, easy-to-read digital watch with basic time features.
DO bring identification and documents
Before I get into some extra tips, make sure to bring the important stuff! You will need your test ticket, make sure to have an acceptable photo ID, here are some examples. Make sure your calculator is non-scientific and approved for use. Here are the guidelines for the calculator.
DO bring a #2 pencil and eraser
We live in a high-tech, creative world with mechanical pencils, pencil pens, gel pencils, and so much more. But on Test Day, you’ll be required to use a #2 pencil so the scantron can detect your markings. It would be a real shame to lose points due to bubbling in answers with the wrong writing utensil. Bring more than one in case your pencil breaks or so you don’t waste time sharpening it during the test. Also, it’s a terrific idea to have a brand new clean eraser handy. If you make an error, you want to ensure you have a good eraser that will not smudge your answer sheet and cause unnecessary errors.
DO NOT bring your cellphone
I know it’s hard to detach yourself from your cellphone, but I do encourage you to consider it on this special day. I have heard stories and even been in situations where a student was kicked out of the SAT because an alarm went off or because they we’re caught using their device. It would truly be a waste of time and money, if you’re phone was the reason you couldn’t finish your exam. So just leave the phone home, just for a few hours, to ensure nothing will mess with your potential SAT score. I promise, you’ll live!
DO NOT bring stress
It’s completely normal to be nervous on Test Day, and some nerves can even enhance your performance. But too much anxiety can have counterproductive effects. To calm yourself down the morning of, I always suggest sitting down to your favorite breakfast. You can even wake up your brain with some light, casual reading in a magazine or newspaper.
That said, do NOT study the morning of. There is nothing new that you will study a few hours before that will dramatically change how you will do. Rather, you will only overload your brain. Trust yourself and believe that you have adequately prepared for the exam.
The bottom line is do whatever you can on Test Day to get the positive vibes going—even if that means listening to relaxing music or going for a morning stroll. A negative, stressed out mindset will only keep you from doing your best.
What to Do When You Get to the Exam
Even though test doors open at 7:45 AM, I do challenge you to get there at least 30 minutes earlier. You can expect a long line of students coming to take the same exam as you are. It gives you an awesome upper hand to be one of the first people on the line. You will be assigned your room first and will have more time to sit and relax before the testing begins. You do not want to be one of the people on the back of line who has to worry about getting a room assignment before the test bell rings. I also suggest using that extra waiting time to use the bathroom so you don’t need to go outside of the designated breaks.
During the SAT, try to minimize breaks
You are allowed to take bathroom breaks beyond the designated break times. However, it would benefit you to not to take one. A bathroom break during a timed section can really take away the time you have to understand and answer questions. If you do need to take a break, try to do so after you complete the section. You want to make sure you’re maximizing your time and using every minute to answer the questions correctly. This can all be avoided by getting there early enough so that you can use the restroom before the exam begins.