3 Tips for Keeping Your Cool on Test Day

SAT WorryYour outlook on test day is probably something like this: Oh no; it’s here. The test is this weekend. That big test. The one I’ve been partially dreading and partially waiting for just so I can get it over with. I’m a little nervous, no, a lot nervous. Isn’t this test supposed to decide my life or something? Isn’t this the test that determines whether or not I’ll get into a good college?

1.  Stop worrying

You’re ready. You know you are; you actually studied. Maybe you didn’t study as much as you thought you were going to, but hey, at least you made a great effort. You should be proud of yourself.

Before test day, you go to the CollegeBoard website for some last minute practice. Glancing at the pile of study materials sitting in the corner of your room, you suppress a cringe and look back at the screen. A practice problem appears before you. You don’t feel like doing it, but a deadening sense of obligation compels you to do it anyway. You get it right. Oh. Cool, you think.  You can do this.

The next day you pull up to the testing center, and you smile bravely. You’re a soldier heading into battle, a performer taking the stage, an athlete running onto the field. Today, you are channeling stardom.

After the excessively long process of bubbling in your name and your address and your school code and your testing center ID, the proctor says those fateful words:

You have 25 minutes to complete this section. Open your booklet to Section 1… and begin.

2.  Write how you practiced

The room comes alive as everyone scrambles to open their test booklets. Section 1 is the essay, and you write with a trained hand. Ditching what you learned in English class, you frequently utilize decorative vocabulary, you write as much as possible, and you throw in lots of examples from current events and classic literature to support your thesis, which is direct, educated, and conclusive. Boom.

3.  Remain Relaxed

The rest of the test is a collection of reading, writing, and math sections. Stay relaxed the whole time. You’re on top of things. During the breaks, stretch and eat your snacks leisurely. Take a drink of water and feel refreshed.

Remind yourself that the SAT was designed for the “average college-bound high school senior.” You’re going to rise far above ”average” today. Today is your day.

Your test-taking strategies are outstanding. You skip questions that you’re not sure about, and when you return to them, you experience an epiphany and know the answer. A few times, you notice that the makers of the SAT are trying to tempt you with cleverly incorrect answer choices. As you dodge their tricks, you feel compassion for the kids who will be fooled. They’ll infer too much from the text; they’ll over think a grammar rule; they’ll try to use calculus on a math question.

You know better. You know that the answers are all fairly straightforward. If a question seems to need background knowledge in order to answer it, you read it again. Ah, no, nevermind, you think, that information is right in the passage. Sweet.

Let’s face it; by the time you leave the testing center, you’re feeling like a total baller. You were ready. By studying ahead of time, staying calm and focused, and approaching each question with confidence and care, you just aced the SAT.

You’re awesome.

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Clarissa Towle is a double major in Chemical Engineering and Spanish Language and Literature at MIT. In high school, she was a National Merit Finalist, President of the Environmental Society, and Chief Editor of the yearbook. She also worked at the YMCA as a lifeguard and swim instructor, and she taught health workshops for high school freshmen during her junior and senior years.