SAT test day is approaching soon and students are likely a bundle of nerves anxiously waiting to get the test done and over with. That said, there are several things students can do the 24 hours leading up to (and during) the test that will help make the experience a smoother one.
1. Be Prepared
Make sure to gather all of these items in a bag or backpack the night before, so you won’t have to scramble around the morning of looking for extra batteries!
* indicates optional items
Several sharpened #2 pencils
An eraser, if the ones on your pencils aren’t any good*
A calculator (not the one on your phone!) -- any basic scientific or graphing calculator is fine. If you have any more questions about which calculators are acceptable, College Board has a list of all acceptable brands and models
Extra batteries for the calculator (Note, you’ll have to ask for permission to access them. They cannot be on your desk during the test.)*
A snack and a water bottle*
Acceptable Photo ID(Driver’s License or School ID should be fine)
A watch (no smart watch or any watch that allows you to record things)*
2. Know Where You're Going
For students taking the test at their high school, this one should be a no-brainer. However, for students who take the SAT at a school that is not their own, make sure you know where you are going and how long it will take to get there. Google Maps is your friend here. And, if you are driving yourself, make sure you allow time to park.
3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
This one should be rather self-explanatory. Students should aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep prior to the test. Considering how early the test is, this involves going to sleep before midnight. A challenge for many high school students, I’m sure.
4. Don’t Try to Cram
The SAT isn’t the same as trying to finish your History paper in a night. This is a test that you can’t really cram study for. Take the evening to relax. If you’re super anxious, you can spend a little time reviewing concepts rather than trying to teach yourself new ones. Accept that all you can do between now and the test is to prepare yourself emotionally (control your nerves) and physically (be rested and eat well!). The time has passed for expanding your knowledge base. You aren’t going to figure out how to tackle that math concept you’ve been struggling with all year or improve your reading skills overnight. And that’s okay. There’s likely going to be another test that you can take after.
5. Eat a Hearty Breakfast
Nobody wants to have to deal with a rumbling stomach, so eat a nice healthy breakfast the morning of the test. Don’t drink too much liquid, though. You don’t want to have to run off to the bathroom in the middle of a section (not that that’s even allowed).
6. Arrive on Time
You really, really don’t want to be late because they most likely won’t let you in. And you won’t get your money back. So set two alarms if you have to!
7. Turn your Phone OFF
Off. This doesn’t mean silent. It doesn’t mean vibrate. It means turn your phone off. Even better, if you’re driving yourself you should leave your phone in the car. Of course there are some students who have to be picked up and need their phones, so if that’s you, make sure you turn your phone completely off. Why? Well if your phone even makes the slightest sound (and Siri can unexpectedly start speaking sometimes!) you will be asked to leave the exam and your scores will be cancelled. And no, you won’t get a refund. Even during breaks, do not turn on or even touch your phone. If you get caught, you will be asked to leave as well.
8. Stay Calm but Move Efficiently
Take deep breaths and stay calm, but don’t move through the test at a too leisurely pace: it still is a timed test after all. Your attitude is within your control. Walk in tomorrow confident about what you know. Have a plan for how you’ll deal with a problem that trips you up (hint, move on to the next problem fairly quickly and don’t let one problem sink your performance on a whole section).
9. Bubble Carefully
You don’t want to lose points for silly mistakes such as filling in the bubbles for the wrong section, or copying your answer over to the wrong question. As silly as it may sound, I personally know people who got scores much lower than expected because they filled out the wrong section!
10. Have a Plan for after the Test
It’s nice to have something to look forward to when the test is done. And, while you might want to jot down a couple of thoughts about the test for future reference, try to avoid spending the 24 hours that follow the test obsessing about how you did. You’ll know soon enough and, if you didn’t get the score you want, know that you have another chance to do things differently next time!
One bonus tip: when the proctor says “put your pencils down”, put your pencil down!! Although it may seem harmless to finish bubbling that one last bubble, you CAN get kicked out for not putting your pencil down when told to. I’ve personally witnessed this happen to someone while I was taking the test a few years back.
Hopefully these tips will help you be able to put your best foot forward for the test (and make it all the way through without being asked to leave for a silly reason). If you’re looking to stay updated on college application deadlines and news, sign up for our newsletter!