On January 23rd, 2010, I was sitting in a small, impeccably-clean classrom at Moorestown High School; surrounding me were people with last names such as Williams, Walter, Wright, Wilson, and White ( I sat right in front of my twin brother, interestingly enough). Due to the irritation in my left eye, I only wore my much-needed contact lens in my right; I blinked incessantly as I sat there, pencil in hand, waiting to start the test that would play a significant role in determining where I would attend college. Oy.
I don’t particularly enjoy taking tests that require several hours of my time, namely the SAT. Prior to this test date, I had prepared myself for nearly five months in order to get a “good score;” by now, I was tired of taking practice tests and just wanted to get it over with. Yet, I managed to do more than just “get it over with,” as I believe I learned a thing or two from taking the dreaded college board examination:
*Always do a warm-up beforehand. Any SAT tutor will tell you to read the contents of a cereal box to get your mind working before the test, but you should also warm-up your body. For instance, I rolled out of bed at six-thirty to take the test; as soon as I hit the ground I executed thirty push-ups. When I stood up to shower, I felt the blood pumping vigorously through my veins; the adrenaline rush stimulated my mind and made me more alert, which is a necessity for the SAT.
*Do not underestimate the value of sleep. I usually don’t sleep that much, mainly because I enjoy working so much, but before the SAT, I made sure I slept more than normal; and I must say, when I woke up the next morning, I felt great. By the time I had sat down to take the test, my head was clear and I didn’t experience the usual grogginess and drag of the morning. Because of this, I could use my brain to its full potential, and I’m sure I would’ve done worse had I not slept as much.
*Be prepared to write, for the essay comes first. I had been misinformed before I took the test: the people with whom I had spoken told me that the essay section came last. False. The essay usually comes first on the SAT, so it is a bit of a shock to sit down and write an essay for the first twenty-five minutes of the test. To avoid being shell-shocked, practice your writing beforehand, and, armed with the knowledge that the writing portion comes first, you can avoid being surprised.
*Eat enough, but don’t eat too much. The reasoning behind this maxim is that you don’t want to think about how hungry you are or how badly you need to use the bathroom while taking the test. You want as little as possible to distract you while in the midst of your examination, so make sure you eat enough beforehand; I hadn’t eaten as much as I should’ve, and could feel my stomach rumbling during the first few sections of the examination.
*Don’t tie your shoes too tightly. I had to loosen my shoes halfway through the test because I was uncomfortable. On a similar note to the eating requirement, you want to be as comfortable as possible, and believe it or not, your shoes make a difference. You might want to consider untying them when you sit down so that you have as much room as possible.
*Never wear multiple layers of clothing. The combination of thinking and writing during the test is hard work, believe it or not (especially when you’re under tremendous pressure and are at it for about five hours), and you will start to sweat. I made the mistake of wearing my sweatshirt to the test, and had to remove it after less than an hour of testing. Wear as little as possible, and you’ll be more comfortable.
*The test is hard, not impossible. Keep this in mind as you start: you’re not the only person to have taken this test, but you are one of millions. Just keep a steady head, take a deep breath, and remember that you’re going to do fine as long as you pace yourself and work as hard as you can.
*Target scores are great, but they’re just ideals. When I took the test for the first (and only, as of now) time, I did not score as highly as I was aiming. Theoretically, everyone should aim for a perfect score, but I had an idea of how well I would do; suffice to say, I scored slightly lower than I’d anticipated. After a few moments of disappointment, I realized: I can take it again, and I was almost at my goal. Sometimes, you have to just accept that you made a few more mistakes than you thought you would, and seek to do better next time.
In conclusion, you should tell yourself that the SAT is just a test. Yes, it counts more than most tests do, but colleges look at much more than one silly test score when considering your application. I learned that stressing over every single question only made the process harder for me, so learn to let go when you’ve done all you can. It’s not as bad as you think it is, and though you probably don’t want to “torture” yourself, you can always take the test again if you don’t reach your target score.