Success in exams is not easy unless you work hard. Working hard is not enough, you need to work smart. SAT is not like any other exams that you take during your school. Thus, the same techniques you use for other exams is not going to work for SAT. Performing well in the SAT takes a lot of effort. You need to know about the things you should do and avoid during the SAT exam day.
Things You Should Avoid:
Don’t pull an all-nighter
Sleep deprivation negatively affects concentration and memory recall, so drink some chamomile tea, turn on relaxing music, and get a full eight hours of sleep before Test Day. Students often pull an all-nighter with a hope of doing better on the exam the next day but do not realize that they need a calm mind in such exams. Proper rest and sleep can make you calmer than staying the whole night.
DON’T forget the essential materials
Before leaving the house, be sure to pack your admission ticket, the correct photo ID, at least two 2B pencils, and CollegeBoard-approved calculators. You are going to be in trouble in the exam hall if you miss any of these. Double and triple check them.
You may take snacks to have them in breaks. You need the energy to think and write throughout the exam. Take a bottle of water as well.
DON’T be afraid to mark up your test booklet.
Although the test booklet is authoritative, feel free to mark it up since there is no restriction. Write notes in the margins, circle words that don’t make sense, and cross off incorrect answers. Don’t worry about keeping things neat and proper, either. The College Board only cares about scoring the scantrons, so consider the test booklet a judgment-free document.
Things You Should DO
DO take advantage of the built-in safety net for the Math Test.
On that note, sometimes it seems like there are more formulas to study for the SAT than there are digits in pi. Thankfully, the College Board values actually knowing what to do with those formulas more than memorizing them, so they’ve thrown test-takers a major lifeline. On the first page of both math sections, there’s a reference sheet with the most common formulas that appear on the test.
It’s still important to be familiar with the formulas, though, if only to prevent paper cuts from flipping back and forth in the test booklet, but it’s nice to have the reference sheet to fall back on if necessary.
DO turn off your cell phone for the entire exam (even breaks)
We can’t stress this enough: Cell phones must be turned off.
Not on vibrate, not on silent, not on airplane mode: turn them off. The College Board has officially restricted switching on mobile phones when students are in the examination center.
“If your device makes noise, or you are seen using it at any time, including during breaks, you may be dismissed immediately, your scores can be canceled, and the device may be confiscated and its contents inspected.”—The College Board
DO check out the Common Prompt
Those merciful SAT designers have made preparing for the Essay Exam easier than ever: they’re giving out the prompt ahead of time. Now, don’t get too excited. However, regardless of what text you’ll be asked to analyze on test day, the prompt will always say something like this:
“Write an essay in which you explain how [the author] builds an argument to persuade [his/her] audience that [author’s claim].”
The author’s name and claim complete the pattern. So there’s no need to waste several anxious minutes trying to figure out what the writer’s getting at. Take that pre-approved central claim and start analyzing.
DO make an educated guess.
With the switch to a correct-answers-only scoring system, an incorrect answer no longer counts against the total score, so the worst thing that can happen is missing the points for a particular question. There’s no reason not to give every question a shot. Cross off any answers that are obviously wrong, then make your best guess. But it is always fruitful when your guesses are supported by some sort of logic or reason.
DON’T rush, but DO watch the clock
The SAT is notorious for throwing out choices that are almost right (but still wrong) among the answer options. For instance, on the Writing Test, a question stem might include two grammatical errors, and there may be a wrong answer choice that only corrects one of them. Take time to read each question carefully, and read all of the possible answers before deciding which is best. That said, if one question is taking up too much time, circle it in the test booklet and come back to it later. If you have to, heed the advice in the above tip.