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What to Do the Week Before the SAT

Waking Up on Test Morning
  • When you wake up, consider taking a shower or doing some brief calisthenics or other exercise to get the blood flowing especially to your groggy brain! If someone is taking you to the test site, make sure he or she is up, too.
  • Eat a normal breakfast, but not too much or you'll be groggy. If you're used to consuming some form of caffeine—tea, coffee, cola—then doing so is probably a good idea this morning. But only if you're used to caffeine; if you're not, now is not the morning to start.
  • Make sure you have everything with you when you leave, and allow enough time to get to the test site thirty to forty minutes before the test starts to allow for traffic delays and to get yourself into a good position for entering the exam room. Try to get to the site between 7:45 and 8:00.
Arriving at the Test Site
There will probably be dozens of nervous students milling around at the entrance to the test site, reviewing flash cards, skimming through their notes, or muttering to themselves. If I were you I'd avoid congregating near everyone else so you can remain focused, but that's up to you and your state of mind that morning.

If you arrived super early, you can hang out in the car or find a place to sit and read your book or listen to some music. If a parent drove you to the site, have him or her hang out until the test starts just in case some emergency comes up—like you're a walk-in, the test center doesn't have enough tests for you, and you have to be driven immediately to an alternative site.

Make sure your pencil points are slightly dull. Super sharp pencil points break easily and take longer to fill in the answer sheet bubbles than do dull pencil points.

If you're taking the test under special circumstances, or taking it as a walk-in, it's especially important that you show up to the test center early so that the proctors can accommodate you.

Entering the Exam Room
Don't just wander into your exam room casually. Try to be one of the first students into the exam room so that you can choose a good seat (assuming seating is not assigned, as it sometimes is). A good seat is one that gives you a clear view of the proctor and of the central clock in the room that the proctor will be monitoring to time the test.

When I took exams I always preferred seats in the very back of the room because I didn't like the feeling that something was going on behind my back that I couldn't see. You may be different and prefer a seat as close to the front of the room as possible. The important thing is to choose a seat that suits you, and not one that you take by default.

I recommend getting a seat either next to a window or next to a wall so that you're not sandwiched on both sides by other students. During the test you may want to take a break for a few seconds and stretch your neck; that's hard to do if you have students on either side of you. It's nice to be able to look out the window from time to time to clear your head.

As the proctor reads the instructions—Clear your desks and put all your belongings under your seat. Print your first name and then last name, bubbling in the first few letters on page one of your answer sheet, blah, blah, blah—don't space out. Use the time to get focused and alert so that when the test begins, you're ready to go.

Get ready to set your digital timepiece to zero you want it to count up, not down and await the proctor's signal.

The Scariest Moment in the Exam Room
Do you know when it is? Imagine that the proctor has finished reading the instructions and everyone in the room has his or her pencil poised to break the test booklet seal, waiting for the second hand to swing up to the twelve on the room's clock, when the test will begin.

Finally the second hand hits twelve, and the minute hand clicks once. The proctor looks out at the room full of anxious faces and announces, Open your test booklets and begin. You have twenty-five minutes to complete the first section.

Phwip, phwip, phwip, phwip, phwip. The silence of the room is broken by the chorus of seals being broken around the room and the flutter of test booklets being opened. Then the room is quiet, the only sound being the scribbling of pencils.

No, that's not the scariest moment in the exam, but it's about to happen.

Scribble, scribble, scribble. You're working through the problems on the first page just like you've done many times before. Everything's going along swimmingly as the proctor walks up and down the aisles occasionally.

Then, all of a sudden, everyone in the room hears a sound that draws a collective gasp: the sound of the first page turning!

"Oh no," everyone thinks, "I'm not moving fast enough!" All at once the head of every student in the room drops down closer to the test booklet, teeth clenched in determination, and pencils scribbling even faster. Within 30 seconds—I promise—everybody else in the room will have turned his or her first page, too, trying to catch up.

I assure you that the first person in the exam room to turn his or her page is racing recklessly through the problems—and bombing big-time. Don't be tricked into trying to keep up with that pace. Stick to our game plan. Stay focused. No shortcuts. Take pains. If you do so, you'll lock in at least a good score, and possibly a very good score. The time to accelerate is at the end of each section, and not before.

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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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