Try to rest and relax and get up at your normal time, if you can.
Get a little exercise if you can – to help you manage stress and promote a calm and clear mind.
Your brain burns a lot of energy when you are working it hard, so make sure it is fueled up for the test. Also make sure you have had enough to drink, including caffeine if you normally drink caffeine, but maybe a little less than usual since you may be feeling nervous.
You got this!
This is easier said than done, but try to stay calm and confident and avoid anxious thoughts. You’re ready for this!
Gather your things that you have packed the night before.
See Day Before the Test and packing list, here. Plan to arrive at the test site early. Remember to leave your cell phone at home. It is not allowed at the test site. No smart-watches, or mp3 players or anything else of the sort! Also no colored pens or highlighters.
Answer all the questions that are easy, and then return to ones you marked as hard. Every question on the SAT is worth the same amount. You do not receive extra points for more difficult questions. When you get to a question that is hard:
Getting to questions that you know how to do will boost your confidence, and help you get into a groove.
The SAT does not penalize you for wrong answers, which means you should answer every question in every single section, even if it means randomly filling in bubbles at the end of the test. Be sure to budget your time to allow for guessing.
Guessing won’t hurt your score. In fact, if you leave blank bubbles on your SAT answer sheet, you are throwing away potential points. See our article on strategies for guessing.
Rule out any answer that you know can’t be correct. Mark them out in your booklet. And if an answer seems less likely to you, make a note about that, too.
The SAT has only one correct answer for each question. You should be able to eliminate all the others. Even if you can only eliminate one possible answer, it will increase your chance of guessing the correct answer.
If you’re struggling with a question, try to figure out what answers can’t work rather than focusing on what answers can.
Make sure you fill in the bubbles clearly and that they line up with the correct question.
Seriously. It pays to be careful and tidy. A machine is grading your answers. If you have stray marks or accidently get off by a number, you might get questions wrong that you answered correctly.
It’s easy to lose track of time so make sure to pay attention to how much time is allotted for each section, and how much time you have remaining. Ideally, you pace yourself so that you can:
1st ⇒ Answer easy questions
2nd ⇒ Answer hard questions, eliminate any wrong answers and then guess from remaining options
3rd ⇒ Check your work. Everyone makes careless mistakes.
Don’t change an answer unless you’re certain you’ve made an error.
Write it in, mark it up, cross out answers that you know are wrong, and do scratch work on it. While you will want to be neat on the answer grid, you do not have to be neat in your test book.
Don’t forget to bring your own watch to the testing center. There isn’t always a clock at the testing center that you can see.
When you have time at the end of a section, go back and check your answers. You will be tired, but do it anyway. Seriously. It is super easy to make careless mistakes, and the only way to catch them is to review your work.
The SAT is a series of short sections. Stay focused on the section you are working on.
It can be hard to relax during a big test. One thing that works for me when I start feeling anxious, is to do a mini meditation.
Stop. Put your pencil down. Close your eyes.
Take several deep breaths.
Imagine you are in a favorite, relaxing place, maybe the beach, with no worries in the world.
Focus only on breathing for 30 seconds.
Shake out your arms. Relax your shoulders.
After a mini meditation, you should feel more relaxed and able to focus.
After the test, it is helpful to know that you can cancel your score. If something does go wrong, there is a process to let the CollegeBoard know. You can read about the process, here.
Another helpful thing to remember is that you can always take the SAT again. From the research, we know that most students see a modest increase in their score when they take it a second or third time. If you use the time wisely before taking the SAT again, you are likely to see more than a modest increase.
The other thing to remember is that most colleges will only consider your highest score from a single day of testing. Some colleges use your “superscore”, which is your highest score on each section from different test dates.
If you decide to take the SAT a second time, we encourage you to make it worth the time and money. A wonderful free resource is Khan Academy’s SAT test prep, which will automatically tailor your practice to areas that you need improvement and provides full-length practice tests.