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Tips for Maximum Performance on the SAT

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  • 0:01 Test Your Best
  • 0:55 Friday Night
  • 2:55 Saturday Morning
  • 5:08 Testing Tips
  • 6:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

You've studied for the SAT, but are you prepared to be at the top of your game on test day? This video explains what to do on Friday night and Saturday morning to keep your nerves under control and your energy up.

Test Your Best

Most people instinctively know that a good night of sleep and a solid breakfast will help you on any kind of test. That's just common sense. But on the SAT, your mental and physical preparation for test day is especially crucial because the test itself is so intense. You don't just have to answer the questions; you have to answer them under stress and time pressure, for four hours straight, without losing your focus. And this all starts at 8:00 in the morning on a Saturday, whether you're ready or not.

To make that happen, you'll need to be at the top of your game - not just mentally but physically. A bad night's sleep or a stressful Saturday morning can sabotage your test performance no matter how well you've studied. So, to help you get ready for the bubble-sheet marathon, here's a step-by-step walkthrough of what to do (and what not to do) from Friday night through Saturday morning.

Friday Night

Your preparations for the big day shouldn't start when you get up on Saturday. You should already be getting in gear on Friday night. In the evening before the test, you'll be paying attention to the three Bs: your bag, your break and your bed.

Pack your bag. Get everything you'll need for the test together on Friday night, so that when Saturday morning comes, you'll be humming along like a well-oiled machine, not panicking because you can't find your pencils! Then you can cruise right on into the test feeling calm and in charge - it's a huge psychological boost.

Here's what to throw in your bag on Friday night, so you can quickly grab it and go the next morning:

  • Your admission ticket
  • Your photo ID
  • Directions to the test center
  • Several sharpened No. 2 pencils with good erasers
  • A calculator you're comfortable using - don't buy a special new one for the test!
  • Spare batteries for the calculator
  • A water bottle and a snack

Also on Friday, plan out when you'll have to leave in the morning, print out directions if you're going to an unfamiliar place and set your alarm. You should plan to arrive at the test center by 7:45 at the very least.

Take a break. Friday night is not the time for studying. The SAT is not a test that you can cram for at the last minute. Shut the books, turn off the videos and do something relaxing that you enjoy, like baking cookies with your friends or curling up with a good book.

Go to bed. It's last on the list, but it's no less important. Remember that you're waking up early the next morning - figure out when you need to get up, count backwards eight hours from that time and hit the sack then: no excuses! Tonight is not the night to skimp on sleep. With your bag, your break and your bedtime all taken care of, you can nod off to sleep confident that you're all ready for the morning.

Saturday A.M.

On Saturday morning, hopefully you'll wake up dewy and refreshed from a solid night of sleep. Or possibly, you'll wake up grumpy and irritated that you're seeing the wrong side of noon on a Saturday. But either way, the test isn't going to wait, so it's time to rise and shine. On Saturday morning, you're going to get dressed, get fueled and get going. Here's your plan of attack:

Get dressed: wear comfortable clothes. The SAT is not a fashion show, so don't wear anything that might distract you from the test. Avoid clothes that are tight, scratchy or annoying. Layers are a good bet, in case the room is too hot or too cold. If you have long hair, tie it back away from your face.

Get fueled: eat breakfast. You might be tempted to skip breakfast so you can sleep a little more - don't! The last thing you want is to get distracted from the test because you're hungry or have your concentration crash halfway through the test because your blood sugar is low. Eat a real breakfast and avoid anything with sugar listed as the first ingredient. Eggs, oatmeal, yogurt with fruit, granola or toast with peanut butter will keep you going a lot longer than sugary cereal. Also, drink some water to make sure you're hydrated going in.

A word about caffeine: the rule of thumb on test day is to do whatever you normally do. If you always have coffee, have your coffee. But if you never have coffee, now is not the time to drink the whole pot. And don't even think of trying energy drinks or caffeine pills for the first time on test day - bad idea!

Get going: leave on time. After breakfast, you'll be all set to grab your bag and go since you did yourself a favor last night and packed everything up in advance. Aren't you so competent? Hang on to that feeling of being in charge and bring it with you into the test room.

By 7:45, you should be at the test center. You'll have to check in with your admissions ticket and ID before you get to the test room. Once you're seated, take a few minutes to roll your shoulders, stretch and take deep breaths. Now's the time to get your head in the game, put everything else out of your mind and focus on the test.

Testing Tips

At 8:00, the test starts! Now you see the advantage of all your careful preparation: you're well fed, well rested and ready to tackle the SAT. Here are just a few more tips to help you manage your nerves and conserve energy, so you can stay strong all the way through the test:

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