However, no matter how excellent your math, grammar, and reading skills happen to be, you still need to prepare your body and mind properly for the test. If you're sleepy, undernourished, or stressed, you're not going to get the scores that you deserve. With that in mind, I've decided to publish a little arsenal of my best test-day tips and tricks to help you get the best scores possible on your SAT.
I've been working on the routine below for years, with over 350 one-on-one students. Some of it might seem a little "off topic" or ridiculous, but trust me: it's all extremely important. Just follow the prescription below and you'll knock this thing out of the park:
1. Go to bed early tonight. Make sure you and your parents set multiple alarms so you don't sub-consciously fear that you won't wake up on time. If you're having trouble falling asleep, try taking a chilly shower/bath, which will cause you to tire out. Make sure your room is dark, quiet, and cool.
2. Wake up at least 2 hours before the test starts. It takes more than 90 minutes for your brain to fully "boot up" after you wake up. Make sure you're not sleepy when you go into the test by waking up early.
3. Eat a big breakfast immediately upon waking up, and drink a huge glass of water while you eat it. You'll need lots of energy to do well on the SAT, but you don't want to be digesting while you test. Make sure to get healthy fats, proteins, and complex carbs - eggs, whole grain toast with peanut butter, a glass of milk, and a cup of yogurt would be ideal. And make sure to drink the water - you want to be hydrated, but you don't want to have to pee during the exam.
4. When you're done with breakfast, take a 15-20 minute walk - listen to classical music if possible. You're gonna be sitting for 4-5 hours - you need to get your blood flowing. This will help to reduce your stress and wake you up. Here's a great playlist to listen to while you walk:
5. Shower. Doesn't matter if you're not a "morning shower" person. Do it - it'll help to wake you up and relax you.
6. Wear layered clothing. Testing centers can be too hot or too cold - prepare accordingly. And make sure you're comfortable.
7. Follow your normal caffeine routine. If you usually drink coffee, don't skip it. If you don't, don't.
8. Triple check that you have everything you need. Photo ID, testing ticket, pencils, calculator, batteries, and snacks (bring a bottle of water, a banana, and a few almonds or cashews - you can keep your blood sugar up during breaks and stay hydrated, which is clutch).
9. Get to the testing center early. Cutting it close stresses you out, and stress is horrible for brain performance.
10. Don't talk to your friends when you get there. Listen to classical music instead. Your friends will just stress you out - you need to be in the zone.
11. Review 2 pages of already-completed math, writing, and reading work from your practice sections. This is THE big one. Your brain currently isn't in "SAT mode" - you're still not geared in. Before I discovered this trick, my students used to get their worst scores on their first few sections - their brains were "shocked" by switching from sugarplums to equations and vocab, and they suffered. Don't do new material - just go over old material you've already conquered and go through the motions. This will gear you in. Make sure to conspicuously throw this stuff away before you walk into the testing room!
Listen to classical music while you do this.
12. Pee before you go into the testing room. Har har har - but seriously, do it. You don't want to be distracted during the test.
Knock this thing out of the park!
You've worked hard to get to where you are - now just go in there and do your best!
Good luck to everyone taking the SAT tomorrow - I'll be rooting for you!