Whether it’s the SAT, the ACT or any other standardized test, test days can be stressful, monotonous, and just downright awful. Sitting in a gray classroom with a bunch of kids you don’t know, and waking up super early (on a Saturday, of all days!) to answer a bunch of questions is no fun, to say the least. But have no fear- I’m here with a list of tips to make your test day experience a little less awful.
#1. Frankie say RELAX
Feels like it’s easier said than done, doesn’t it? But it’s true. The SAT/ACT does not test how good of a person you are. It cannot determine whether or not you will succeed in life. It tells you how well you can take these tests. That’s it. I’m no psycolotyatriciologist, but doing your best to feel relaxed before a big test can help you do better! Your mind won’t be racing over the “what-if’s” or the “but-then’s”. Drink a hot cup of tea before you leave, listen to your favorite song on the way there, and don’t cram in any studying the morning of your test. A relaxed mind is a working mind!
#2. Snacks on Snacks on Snacks
During the SAT, you’re allowed to take a series of three 5-minute long breaks between sections, and during the ACT there is one longer break in the middle of the test. During these breaks, you’re allowed to munch on whatever snacks and drinks you brought with you. Foods like blueberries, blackberries and apples are known to help boost brain function and improve concentration, and almonds are a great thing to bring along for a little protein boost. Stay hydrated with a cold bottle of water, and get your caffeine in BEFORE the test! Don’t need those coffee jitters halfway through. Also, for your own sanity, pack a candy bar or chocolate bar or other naughty snack with you. It gives you something to look forward to while you’re testing!
#3. Get Comfy!
Let’s be real here. You didn’t get up at 6:30 on a Saturday and schlep all the way to your testing center to impress anyone. Even if there’s a cutie in your test room, he/she isn’t there to pick up a date. (Side note: Can you imagine? “Yeah, we met while we took the SAT. It was really romantic, and I knew when she asked me to borrow a pencil that she’d be mine.”) Anyway, wear whatever you’re the most comfortable in. Grimy old Disney World sweatshirt from the eighth grade? Yup. Your nasty tie die tshirt you made with your friend last summer? You betcha. Lucky boxer shorts? Absolutely. No one will be taking your picture. No one will be judging you. (Another side note: If you judge others based on how they look the morning of the SAT, you are a special kind of rude.) My only real recommendation here is that you bring a sweatshirt or dress in layers. You never know how cold it’s gonna get, or how warm either! The first time I took the SAT, there was no A.C. in my room. And the second time, I didn’t wear socks and nearly suffered frostbite on my toes. Happy thoughts, and happier wardrobe choices!
#4. Work Out a Routine
In the weeks (or even months, depending on how much you care) leading up to your test, it’s important to carve out a little time each afternoon or evening to study for your test. Obvi, you shouldn’t blow it off, because then you’re hurting yourself. But, at the same time, don’t overdo it! Don’t spend more than 25 minutes a night studying for this test (depending on how much time you’ve got leading up to the test). I found it very easy to stick to my system when I knew that from this time to that time I would be devoted to studying. Set a reminder on your phone. Study with a friend. As you get closer to the test, it’s a good idea to make flash cards and spend some extra time hitting the books, but, again, don’t overdo it! Moderation is key. A fun idea would be to have an SAT/ ACT party the night before, and invite a few friends over to study and munch on some snacks. Just be sure everyone gets home on time enough to sleep a nice long time! Not that you’re a fuddy-dud or anything.
#5. Know the Test
While these tests, in the long run, are relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things, knowing how they are structured beforehand can give you an opportunity to work out a strategy. On the SAT, there are 1o total sections. One 25-minute writing section, 6 25 minute sections (mixed math and reading), 2 20 minute sections, and one 10 minute section, with three breaks interspersed among these. Also, on the SAT, you’re given one raw point for every correct answer, and lose one quarter of a point for every wrong answer. Omitted answers neither gain points nor lose points. So, unless you’re shooting for a perfect score, don’t worry about answering every question. On the ACT, you ARE counted off for omitted answers, so try to answer as many as possible! (Also, on the SAT, questions in each section are organized with the easiest ones at the beginning, medium level questions in the middle, and the hardest ones at the end of the section. Use that to your advantage!)
#6. You’re Not in this Alone
Everyone in that room is in the same boat. They’re all a little nervous. They’re all feeling unprepared. They’re all trying to get into college just like you, and they’re all just doing their best too. Don’t sweat it too much! Do your best and everything will work out. Don’t let these scores define your abilities and your worth as a person. They’re just numbers.