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SAT Test Day Tips

The SAT is almost here. Follow PowerScore's expert advice for creating that extra edge on test day.

The day before the SAT

Take a Study Break

T'was the night before testing and all through the school, not a person was studying — no, not even you.

That's right. No studying. Call your parents in to read this right now if they are having a hard time believing you. You should not study the day (or the night) before the SAT! Professional athletes call this "tapering." After weeks or even months of training for a competition, athletes take a day or two off before the race or the game to give their muscles a chance to rest and rejuvenate. Your brain works the same way. Cramming the day before the SAT can cause fatigue and poor performance on test day. So taper your "workout" the day before the SAT by skipping the study session. In doing so, you will be alert and mentally ready to tackle the ten-section test.

Eat Dinner

Allow us another athletic comparison. All athletes eat a meal containing complex carbohydrates the night before competition. Many high schools even prepare pasta dinners for their sports teams, because carbohydrates are stored by the athletes' bodies and used for energy the following day. But carbohydrates aren't just fuel for your muscles—they are fuel for your brain, too. You might want to make this fact known to your parents, because you will need to eat a dinner rich in complex carbohydrates, such as baked potatoes, bread, and pasta. A well-balanced meal can help you stay sharp and focused during the test.

Find the Test Center

Avoid any added stress on test day by finding the test center in advance. For most students, the test center will be their own high school. But if you are taking the test at another high school, find the test center and check out the parking situation ahead of time. Also make sure that you don't need to stop for gasoline in the morning. These two simple precautions will prevent you from arriving late and being denied admission on test day.

Gather Your Materials

Now that figured out what you are going to eat the night before and where you will be taking your test, the third bit of practical advice is to get your test materials organized in advance. Gather up everything that you need for the test the night before to avoid running around the next morning. Assemble the following:

  • Your SAT Admission Ticket: This ticket was mailed or emailed to you upon registration for the SAT. If you registered online, you can visit your College Board account to print out another copy.
  • A Photo ID: You can use your driver's license or your school ID. For a more detailed list of acceptable identification, please visit this page.
  • Two No. 2 Pencils: Bring a spare pencil in the event one breaks during the test. Mechanical pencils and pens are not allowed.
  • An Eraser: Make sure that you use a fresh eraser to erase any mistakes or changes completely. Stray marks can be interpreted as wrong answers.
  • Your Calculator: Make sure your calculator has fresh batteries. For a list of acceptable calculators, visit College Board.
  • A Wristwatch: You will need a watch to time each section. Testing centers may not have clocks, and it is easier to glance at your wrist than search for a clock.
  • A Snack: The entire test day takes approximately five hours, so you won't be finished until after your normal lunch hour. There are short breaks after every hour of testing, at which time the proctors will encourage you to eat snacks. Take a granola bar or a bag of carrot sticks to avoid losing concentration when the hunger pangs arrive.
  • A Bottle of Water: You are also encouraged to drink water during each break. Take your own bottle of water in case the test center does not have drinking fountains.

Get a Good Night's Sleep

If your parents are still reading this, you might want to send them away now, because you are not going to like what our experts have to say: Go to bed early the night before the test. The entire SAT experience is five very L-O-N-G hours, and if you don't get a decent night's sleep, you are guaranteed to fade around Section 6. Maybe you have a commitment that you can't get out of—like an athletic or musical event—but treat the evening like a school night and be in bed early. Skip the movie, or the school dance, or the birthday party, lest you might miss out on those very events at the college of your choice!

The day of the SAT

Eat Breakfast

It's a proven fact that breakfast increases your concentration, mood, and memory. Eat a healthy breakfast on the morning of the SAT. Many former test takers have complained about the distraction caused by grumbling stomachs—both their own and those of other students—so save yourself any embarrassment or discomfort by eating a breakfast and taking a snack.

Follow Your Normal Routine

If you wake up every morning and watch MTV while you get ready for school, don't stop on account of the SAT! Similarly, if you've never had a cup of coffee, don't start on the morning of the test. Consistency in your routine will allow you to focus on your primary objective – performing well on the test.

Dress in Layers

The temperature of the room can have an effect on your SAT result. If you are too hot or too cold, you may have trouble concentrating. To help control the temperature, dress in layers; peel down to a t-shirt if you're warm or add a sweatshirt if you're cold.

Arrive on Time

Arrive at the test center by at least 7:45 am. Don't forget to bring all of the following:

  • Your SAT Admission Ticket
  • Photo ID
  • Two No. 2 pencils
  • A fresh eraser
  • A calculator with new batteries
  • A snack
  • A bottle of water

Students who arrive after 8:00 am will not be admitted to the test center!

Believe In Yourself

Confidence can go a long way. As you wait at the test center, visualize yourself writing an exceptional essay and knowing the answers to all of the math, reading, and writing multiple choice questions. Many athletes use this same technique before a competition. Your performance will be a reflection of your own expectations. Good luck!