It’s the week before test day. You’ve studied for months and months, sacrificing hours of sleep and fun to prepare for this moment, and judgement day is almost upon you. You might feel excited, nervous, scared, or some wild combination of the three, but most of all, you might be wondering- what now?
Here are 9 things you can do to ensure that you’re able to perform to your full ability on test day.
The week before the SAT, the best you can do for yourself is to relax. Don’t worry about studying– hopefully you’ve been preparing for the SAT for months at this point! Now your effort can be best directed to kicking back and catching up on all of the new episodes of your favorite TV shows that you’ve missed. Bake some delicious cookies, read a book, or do whatever you like to do to keep yourself calm.
That being said, it’s still good to keep your brain’s SAT-motor running by doing just a little bit of review each day. If you have a SAT notebook where you write down all of your past mistakes, go over some of the questions that you’ve missed in the past. You can also answer the daily questions on the Daily Practice SAT app (which you can download on the app store). Getting these questions correct can be great confidence booster, but don’t let a wrong answer get you down. Remember all of the studying you’ve done and the months that have gone into your prep- and know that you are ready.
From a week before test day, start sleeping as early as you can. Though the world around you won’t just stop because of your upcoming test date, do your best to get your homework done early and get your much needed zzzs. By the time test day comes, you should feel well rested and ready to combat the challenges of the SAT.
Don’t fall into the trap of staying up every night cramming for the SAT- a little bit of studying is great, but not when you have to sacrifice your sleep. Memorizing the special triangles isn’t going to help you on the SAT if you’re struggling to stay awake! Waking up on the test day feeling energized and prepared might be the difference between hitting your target score and falling short of your goal.
#3 Review the SAT Schedule
The SAT is broken up into 3-4 parts, depending on whether or not you will be taking the essay.
Most SAT tests require you to arrive at the testing venue at 7:30, and if you take the SAT essay, you will likely be let out around 12:30-1PM. Luckily, the SAT gives you two breaks throughout the test, and their brevity means that you should learn to make the most of them.
Here’s a quick refresher on the SAT schedule:
Reading- 65 minutes
Break- 10 minutes
Writing and Language- 35 minutes
Math (No calculator)- 25 minutes
Break- 5 minutes
Math (Calculator)- 55 minutes
Break- 2 minutes
Optional Essay- 50 minutes
Dismissal (and sweet, sweet freedom!)
Be sure to keep this schedule in mind so that you’ll know when you’ll be able to access your snacks, spare pencils, or other items that you should leave in your bag during testing time.
Getting out of your seat during breaks and going for a quick walk can also help prevent soreness or cramps from sitting in the same position for hours, but whatever you choose to do, make sure to utilize your knowledge of break times wisely!
#4 Time your Bathroom Breaks
Try to arrive to the test center early so you’ll have time to go to the bathroom after check-in and before testing begins. The only other opportunity that you will have for a bathroom break would be during the 10 minute break between the Reading and Writing and Language sections– some proctors (like mine 🙁 ) will not let you leave the room during the five minute break after the hour long Writing and Language + Math No Calculator sections or before the essay, which means that you should definitely take the earlier opportunity to head over to the toilet even if you feel like its unnecessary at the time– you don’t want to end up squirming in your seat as you attempt to remember the equation of a circle 😐
#5 Review your SAT checklist
- Admission ticket- black and white is acceptable!
- An acceptable photo ID in which your appearance matches that on your admission ticket
- Calculator (non-CAS)
- A watch (in case there isn’t a clock in the classroom or your proctor doesn’t give warnings on time– but make sure it won’t make any noise!)
- A snack and drink
- Extra No. 2 Pencils
- A sharpener
Pack everything in a bag the night before the test so that you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that all you’ll have to do when you wake up is eat breakfast and grab your bag on the way to your testing venue.
#6 Bring Plenty of No. 2 Pencils
Personally, I loathe using No. 2 pencils because of how quickly they get blunt and how my handwriting quickly spirals into a messy chicken scratch. However, when taking the SAT, you have to use No. 2 pencils- I had to buy a pack from Target specifically in preparation for the test. If you don’t have any No. 2 pencils on hand, take a quick trip to the store or ask your teachers and classmates if they have any pencils you can borrow.
In addition, make sure that you bring a sharpener with you just in case your pencil lead breaks. You’ll have to leave the sharpener under your desk, but you can use it during breaks. When packing for the SAT, I tended to overthink and conjured up elaborate doomsday scenarios where I would open my backpack and all of my pencils would be broken, and I was left having to grovel at the feet of my fellow test takers for a spare No. 2 pencil. Don’t let this happen to you!! Pack a sharpener in your bag.
Bring at least three No. 2 pencils with you to the test. Particularly for the math and essay sections, it’s great to have a lot of fresh pencils on hand so you can swap them out when they get too blunt. Check that the eraser on the end of the pencil actually erases! (instead of smudging your writing into an incoherent blob.)
Highlighters, rulers, and erasers themselves are not allowed during the test, so it’s best to leave them at home. Here is a complete list of items prohibited on test day– make sure that you don’t bring any of these into the venue, because should you get caught, your test score will be cancelled.
#7 Sugary Snacks
Sugar can give you a much needed energy boost in the middle of an exhausting, three-hour-long test, which is why I recommend that you pack some candies, sweet granola bars or fruit snacks to help keep you energized for the entire duration of the test. Bring at least two pieces of candies so you’ll be able to have one piece during each break.
#8 Create a transportation plan
In the days leading up to test day, think about how you’re going to get to the test center– whether you’ll be driving yourself, taking public transport, or are getting dropped off, make sure that you have a plan created ahead of time. Look up the route to the test center and figure out how long it will take to get there– accounting for early morning traffic– and make sure to give yourself enough time to arrive at the venue early.
For easily nervous people like me, getting someone to drive you is ideal because you’ll be able to relax on the way over and don’t have to worry about finding parking and rush hour traffic. If you have a family member or friend who can drive you to and from the venue, you might be able to save yourself some stress so that you’ll be in the right frame of mind to begin taking the SAT.
#9 Breakfast to prepare you for success!
It can be difficult to get your brain to begin working at 6 am on a Saturday morning, but I’ve found that the best way to combat this is by preparing a delicious breakfast the night before so you’ll have something to look forward to when you wake up. This can be your favorite breakfast, like chocolate chip pancakes or scrambled eggs, or even a bowl of soup like what I had on the morning of my test day.
Whatever you choose to eat, make sure that you plan to wake up early enough that you’re able to eat your breakfast leisurely and without the pressure of a time crunch- you don’t want to start the day off with unnecessary stress when you’ll be reading lengthy articles on corn gene modification in a matter of hours.
I hope these 9 tips help you to prepare for your big day– remember that the most important thing that you can do is reflect on all that you’ve done to prepare for this moment and head into the test room with confidence.