For most students, taking the SAT for the first time represents the most important exam of their lives. With many high school juniors currently doing their last-minute prep before the January 24 exam, it’s important for them not to let their pre-test jitters get out of control.
“We tell students this: ‘You probably spent at least six weeks studying for the SAT, whether it was through a class or a tutor or a book, so remember to take a deep breath,” says Rob Franek, the senior vice president of publishing at the Princeton Review and the author of “The Best 379 Colleges.” “It’s important to feel confident in the work you’ve done.”
With the exam just around the corner, Franek urges students to keep the following in mind.
Practice self-care: It seems like common sense, but remember that staying up late every night leading up to the test won’t put you in the best state of mind.“Make sure that you take care of yourself,” says Franek. “Remember to sleep.” It’s also important to note that you’ll probably need a snack to boost your energy. “Take some fruit with you,” he says. “Bananas are great to keep the energy going.”
Read the directions: “It’s so easy to get tripped up on the directions of the SAT because they are confusing,” says Franek. Take a second to make sure that you truly understand what the question is asking before selecting an answer.
Heading into the unknown: Last winter, the College Board (which administers the SAT) made headlines when it announced drastic changes to the exam beginning in March 2016. Franek says he and his colleagues are already fielding questions. “We’re advising people to take the current exam if they can,” he says. “The restructured SAT is a tectonic shift and it creates a great deal of anxiety, but the old exam is a known quantity.”
Manage your time: “Focus on your pacing,” he advises. “It’s reminding yourself of how many minutes you have for each section. Start with the easy questions and remember the process of elimination — if you can eliminate two or three of them, it’s ok to guess the answer.” It’s also importantnot to spend too much time on one difficult question. “You can easily skip that question and go back it at the end when you can focus,” advises Franek.
Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.