Test day is quickly approaching. Naturally, this will cause any student anxiety. But realizing that the test is quickly approaching and realizing that you have not done enough to study for the test will cause a freak out equalled only to waking up as a cockroach. That’s right! A giant, gross winged insect that no one likes.
But, not all is lost. It’s not as bad as you think.
The fact that you landed here means you have at least admitted that you haven’t study enough. That is the first step — acknowledging you have a problem. Now we can move to the next step — minimizing the fallout from a lack of preparation. Part of this involves calibrating expectations, and part of this involves optimizing the time you have left.
What you can expect
You are about to take a test unlike any test that you’ve ever taken. Nearly four hours of writing, reading, and math in question forms that may or may not be familiar. You will probably have to fight off boredom, and you will find a lot of the questions hard and confusing. Real quickly, you’ll realize that everyone you talked to was right about how hard the SAT is.
Expect to feel the time pressure. This is one aspect that can catch students off guard when they have not spent a lot of time prepping for the test. Students either rush and get to the end of a section with time to spare and are unsure what to do, or students forget about the time and realize there are ten questions left in a section and there is only one minute left to do them.
With little to no preparation, students struggle with particular question types because they are not like anything they’ve really seen in school. For example, in the reading section, students have trouble reading the dense and dry passages and have trouble knowing what to pay attention to. And then there is the paired passages, which require students to keep two separate readings on a similar topic separate in their mind.
What you can do now
• First, make sure you know the different question types. This will make a huge difference. For example, in the reading section, there are a few types of questions they like to ask, and each one requires a slightly different approach for answering. Do a little research and make sure that you walk into the test with this knowledge firmly cemented, or at least a semi-solid, in your mind.
• Next, find out what common topics the SAT asks you to write about. Look up SAT essay prompts and brainstorm some ideas for potential essays. This is an easy way to prepare and will save you time on test day.
• Use the process of elimination. Focus on eliminating answers you know are wrong instead of searching out the right answer. If you are asked what a passage implies, eliminate any answer choice that is directly stated in the passage. In math, eliminate any numbers that are obviously too big to be correct. Through the process of elimination, you’ll increase your chances of answering questions correctly.
• A well-rested mind is a powerful mind. Make sure that you have plenty of rest before your test. That means, no late night cram sessions the night before. You are not going to learn anything that will help you on the test. It is better to be fully rested. And if its not too late, get plenty of sleep the week leading up to the test.
• A belly full of healthy food will go a long way towards boosting your stamina during the test. Eat a well-balanced, healthy meal the day before the test and the day of the test. Stick to fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish or chicken. Do you think McDonalds has the proper nutritional value for your brain? Are you in top form when you eat a lot of fried food or sweets? I didn’t think so.
• Wake up early on test day. You don’t want to rush on your way to the test so lay out all the things you’ll need for the test the night before. Read the newspaper a little bit to get the brain moving in the morning and take a short jog before you head to the test center. Exercise will help boost your brain power.
• Breathe! Don’t let stress and anxiety dominate your mind. It is bound to happen, but don’t obsess over it. Notice the stress, breathe deeply, and then let go of it. Don’t hold onto it. The stress will pass if you let it.
Not all is lost. You still have potential to do well enough to get into the colleges you are applying to. If you can get a score on the test that is above the average SAT scores for applicants at the colleges you are applying to, then you will be looking good. Of course, you have the rest of the application to worry over, but this is a start. And even if you don’t do so well this time, you can take the test again to improve your score. Just make sure to start prepping early.