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What to Do the Week Before the SAT

The Day before the Test
  • If you haven't already, make sure you know the location of your test center. If you don't know how to get to the center, print out directions from MapQuest.com. If you haven't taken a test before at your test center, ask around among the seniors you know to see whether there's anything you need to know about the place.
  • If you weren't able to register in time and you're going to a test center as a walk-in, choose a large site that you're familiar with. (Large, well-run test centers will have extra SAT booklets on hand for walk-ins.) If you're going as a walk-in, it's also a good idea to have a contingency plan.
  • Speaking of contingency plans, if someone is supposed to drive you to the test center, make sure you have a back-up plan in case the person oversleeps, gets sick, or otherwise fails to show up tomorrow morning (remember, this is the day before the test) at the appointed time.
  • During the day, make sure you have a digital watch or similar timing device, ideally one with large, easily read numbers. The best timing device to use is one that counts up rather than down, but any digital device is better than an analog watch with hard-to-read hands.
  • Also make sure you have a working alarm—or two!—in the house so you're sure to wake up in time. If you can't find one, borrow one from a friend or a neighbor.
  • Although you can get some gum and maybe a bottle of water the morning of the test, it's probably a good idea if you get these things today.
  • Calculators are a distraction but if you feel more comfortable having one at your side, make sure you have one handy. If you borrow a calculator from a friend, make sure you know how it operates: fumbling with it on test day is likely to be disconcerting.
  • If you didn't register in time and you're taking the test as a walk-in, make sure you have a check for the correct amount to bring with you.
  • Finally, it's a good idea to have a cell phone handy on test day. If you don't have one, borrow one and make sure it's charged.
If This Is Your First SAT—Get Excited
It's natural to feel nervous the day before the test, maybe even a bit panicked, but let's try to get some perspective on your situation. Try to think of your first SAT as an audition for college, but not the audition that really counts. Naturally you hope that your audition goes well tomorrow, but it's not a big deal if it doesn't go quite as well as you'd like. Half of all SAT students wind up retaking the test in the fall of their senior year. Even students who do very well often retake the SAT because they know they could have done even better.

So don't think that all your college hopes rest on how you do on tomorrow's SAT—they don't. If you get a great score, terrific, but if you don't, it's not the end of the world.

The Night Before the Test

  • It's fine if you want to see a movie or hang out with your friends until the early evening, but then get home. Do spend at least half an hour today reviewing your work, but no more than an hour. Again, you're not trying to learn anything new at this point; you're just making mental notes about things you should already know.
  • Before you get too tired, lay out everything you're going to need tomorrow morning: a picture I.D., a calculator (although you don't really need one), your digital watch, your pencils, maybe a sharpener. Proctors will not allow scratch paper during the exam, so you won't need to bring that.
  • Set out the clothes you'll wear for tomorrow, including any good luck items. It's a good idea to dress in layers so that if the room is too hot you can take off a sweater, or if it's too cold you can put one on.
  • You might want to bring something distracting to read or listen to with you to the test site tomorrow, and maybe something to munch on. If so, set these items out, too.
  • Charge your cell phone and set your alarm!
  • I've never understood why students are told to get a good night's sleep before the SAT; I'm not even sure what a good night's sleep is. In any event, don't stay up much later than you usually do but don't go to bed much earlier than you normally do, either. Too much sleep tonight is just as bad as getting too little.


From The RocketReview Revolution: The Ultimate Guide to the New SAT and the PSAT by Adam Robinson. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, click here.

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