Don’t stress the SAT!
Let’s face it: taking the SAT is an activity seriously low on the “fun” scale. Unfortunately, like so many other un-fun undertakings – doing dishes, washing your dog after he has rolled in something dead, filing taxes, etc. – it’s just one of those things you have to do, unless you want to apply exclusively to colleges that do not require SAT scores for admission, thereby significantly reducing your options. While the SAT isn’t an easy breezy beautiful experience, it’s not going to kill you, either. DO NOT STRESS YOURSELF INTO A FRENZY WORRYING ABOUT THE SAT. Panic is never, ever useful in a testing situation, so please, relax a little bit. Take a deep breath. You’ve studied and you know your stuff; you’re going to do fine.
Feeling better yet? Or are you still sitting there reading this, shivering and hyperventilating, hoping to memorize everything from your ninth grade geometry text book by holding it against your forehead? Been there, done that, and trust me, darling: it’s not going to happen. Instead of working yourself into a tizzy, why not try these simple tips & tricks to reduce SAT day anxiety and boost your test-taking game:
The night before the test, assemble everything you need in one place. You don’t want to arrive at the test site and realize you left your photo ID or your #2 pencils at home, so gather up all those necessities – ID, pencils, a calculator, spare batteries for aforementioned calculator – and put them somewhere you’ll remember them when you leave in the morning.
Get a good night’s sleep! Staying up until 3 am trying to cram for the SAT is not going to get you anywhere. Hopefully you’ve been studying consistently in preparation for the test, and at this point, you’re either ready or you’re not. What you need now is not more study time, you need to get some sleep! Being well rested will help you to do your best more than any amount of last-minute cramming.
Eat a wholesome breakfast. SAT day is not the day to pig out at breakfast and eat those bacon-wrapped french toast sticks you’ve been dying to try. A sugary, fat-loaded, mondo-breakfast will leave you feeling sluggish and icky rather than ready to conquer those pesky multiple choice questions. The ideal test day breakfast is something filling without being heavy, something that will keep you going for the long haul rather than give you a temporary jolt of energy and then send you crashing into sugar coma. My own personal favorite “power breakfast” is two scrambled eggs (for protein), whole grain toast (whole grain breads keep you fuller longer), a banana (vitamin boost!), and green tea.
Pack water and a snack. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did. Staying hydrated is critical to maintaining a high level of activity, in this case mental activity, and when your break rolls around and you’re starting to lag a little, that healthy snack (i.e. a granola bar, an apple, peanut butter crackers, etc.) stowed away in your bag will seem like a gift from the heavens.
Arrive early. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so instead of cutting it close, plan to get to the testing site 15 minutes early. That way you won’t be in the car on the way there freaking out over whether or not you’ll make it on time, plus you’ll have 15 extra minutes to “get in the zone” with a bit of pre-test meditation.
Once the test begins, pace yourself. Pacing is the most important and most challenging part of the SAT. The total time allotted for the test is 3 hours and 45 minutes, which sounds like absolutely forever, but remember that that time is divided into 10 sections ranging from ten to 25 minutes in length. 25 minutes is not such a long time at all! You’re not going to finish the section in time if you don’t pace yourself. Here’s a tip: answer all the questions you absolutely know the answers to first, then double back and do the harder ones. If you really can’t figure out a question, don’t spend forever staring at it hoping the answer will come to you; just skip it and go back at the end if there’s time left over.
Read questions carefully. Don’t race through the test so fast that you’re not paying close attention to the questions. Sometimes the wording can be confusing and, if you’re not reading carefully, you might misinterpret a question you otherwise would have been able to answer correctly.
Make sure you’re filling out the answer sheet correctly. Imagine this nightmare scenario: you’ve finished a section, and you’re looking over your answer sheet, double-checking your work. Something seems a bit wonky, like your answers aren’t lining up with the questions…OH NO! You realize you accidentally skipped #10 on the answer sheet and marked the answer to question #10 on row #11. Now you have five minutes left before you’re supposed to put your pencil down, and you don’t think you’ll be able to fix the whole thing in that time. Worst. Thing. Ever. Pay attention to where you’re marking your answers!
Most of all, try not to psych yourself out. If you don’t do well on the SAT this time around, you can take it again. Yeah, that’s sort of a bummer, but at least you’re not doomed to a low score! Also, please know that a low score on the SAT does not mean you’re dumb or worthless or anything like that; it probably just means you’re not so awesome at taking this particular sort of test. Do not allow a low score to kill your self-confidence, because, ultimately, it’s just an arbitrary number that will have exceedingly little impact on the course of your life, and which has nothing whatsoever to do with your value as a human being.
That said, I wish you all the best and I’m sure you’ll do great–especially now that you’ve read all of my 100% solid gold helpful hints.