For several years, I would take the last 5 minutes of my verbal class to talk the SAT test taking experience. Avoiding such mundane advice such as, “Make sure you visit the bathroom before you get into that room,” or “You have about a five minute break and what your bladder is saying, about 50 other bladders are saying the same thing, and the odds are not necessarily in your favor,” let me go through just some really simple things to do as you are getting ready for your test.
First, the March test seems to be the odd guy in the bunch. Fall tests attract seniors fiercely praying that this last time they’ll nail a high score to put on applications. December (besides the last senior stragglers) and January, are the first time Juniors tackle this madness, knowing that the last half of the year will have to be devoted to APs (oh yeah and maybe taking the test again in June because somebody isn’t crazy about that score). May and June? The 2nd shots for those juniors from December and January. March SAT takers know that, well, enough is enough. They can have a more serious, almost panicky, tone about them.
You March test takers, then, take a deep breath. Keep the test in perspective. Of anything, you have taken just a bit longer to see where your strengths and weaknesses lie. As always, be confident in your strengths, whether it’s reading effectively, handling word problems, or picking up verb issues in a snap of a finger. For your weak areas, accept them and let them work for you. For instance, if you don’t do formulas in geometry too well, review them and find out why you still get those questions wrong or struggle more to get them right. Frankly, the answer might lie in something as simple as a memorized formula, but most often, you get stressed out, believing that you have to get everything right, so you miss the obvious.
Thus, accept that you will probably get some wrong answers or may even skip a few here and there (though not too often since you could rob yourself of potential raw score points that way). So long as you approach the question properly, you should minimize many of those incidents. When you get the report back a bit more than three weeks later, look at what you did, where you had trouble, then focus on what you can before the end of the school year or once more in the fall before you submit your college apps.
Remember that these tests are aptitude tests, equivalent to looking in a mirror to see exactly where you stand compared to the rest of the country in these three major areas of critical reading, mathematics, and English writing/grammar. Don’t spend hours upon hours upon hours this week cramming vocab or doing 200 math problems (unless you have the time or the inclination to do so) you probably have responsibilities essential to your high school experience, academics, and your grades. Rather, take maybe, at the most, 15 minutes or so a day, and review the approaches to various questions. Are you looking at the question stem? Do you understand what an author was saying and, in your mind, can articulate that idea very briefly? Do you see context clues for vocabulary? Are you familiar with the steps needed to answer a word problem, or show how certain formulas can find the variable? Do you understand the importance of a thesis statement and the value of clear, significant support? Can you pick up the very basic errors in a sentence, grammatically?
These simple questions, maybe addressed a few times here and there, will build the confidence you need so that when you go into the test Saturday, you can put all else out of your mind and tackle it.
Finally, get a good night’s sleep! SLEEP!!! If for some reason you have a parent, big brother or sister, aunt, uncle, grandparent, dead relative who manifests itself in your room, wondering, arms (or whatever spirits have) folded asking why you aren’t studying for this test, just remember to politely say, ‘My bright, articulate, and often highly caffeinated SAT coach said that my best weapon on this test, is a good night’s sleep.’ Now, that conversation doesn’t usually happen .. especially with dead relatives. Usually, you’re in the middle of League of Legends and you know that dropping out suddenly may mean that your on-screen character could be killed if you drop out now.. at 11 PM. Trust me, take the chance. Say ‘bye bye,’ tuck yourself in and prepare for the next day’s adventure in what really matters.
Good news: almost everyone one older than you has probably taken this or other tests, most far more often and far, far, far more intense than this one and have survived. Take a deep breath, gather your thoughts, pull together your strategy and, with calculator juiced and #2 pencil in hand, conquer!
Written by Mr. Perreault on Febuary 26, 2014