A brief moment of honesty: there’s no possible way to sugarcoat how much standardized testing can stink. The cramped desks, the endless scratching of pencils, the nonchalant way the proctor announces that there are only 15 minutes left like it isn’t the worst news you’ve ever heard. For me at least, taking the SAT was a waking nightmare. I’d send in a thousand Common App essays before I would take it again. So yeah, for some of us it’s pretty bad (if you got a 2400 on your first try or you’re one of the rare unicorn-like people who isn’t stressed by test-taking, then you don’t have to read the rest of this. You don’t exist anyway!).
I’m not trying to scare you. I’m just sharing my truth. But over the course of multiple SATs and ACTs and SAT Subject Tests and ABCs and Do-Re-Mis, I’ve learned a thing or two about preparing for these exercises in regurgitating math and reading knowledge that is crammed up inside my head. I’m going to share them with you, and then you’re going to absolutely destroy the test and get into the college of your dreams and get your perfect job and marry the ideal spouse (if that’s something you want to do) and we’ll all be very happy for you. Sound good? Let’s get started.
Prepare the Night Before
Alright, this is key. You want the morning or day before your test to be free of any and all stress. So the night before, you’re going to lay out your pencils, calculator, snacks, passport, and water (or, be like me and pack a Red Bull for good luck), but you’re not going to put them in your backpack. On the morning of the test, place each item in your bag with care so you can be absolutely sure you have everything you need. It’s a small thing, but it eliminates any possibility of the following nightmare: “I forgot my… (fill in any necessary item here) in the… (fill in any place that isn’t the test-taking facility here)!”.
Take Your Time
When you get to a problem you can’t solve, don’t panic. Easier said than done, I know, but find some breathing exercises and find one that works for you. It’ll take the edge off that stress and center yourself. Move on, and come back to the problem later. It’s not going anywhere.
Focus on the Destination, Not the Journey
Imagine that feeling of walking away from the testing center and the freedom of not having to subject yourself to a Subject Test for at least a couple of weeks. When you’re in the middle of any standardized test, you can get caught up in all the minute details and your own worries. Just remind yourself that the feeling of walking away elated requires you to go through this hour of torture. You can make it through. You prepared your materials. You know your stuff. You’re going to feel SO GOOD when this is over.
These are my tips. They’re not really much in the grand scheme of things, but they saved me test day after test day and helped get me into my dream college. You got this. You know you do, so don’t worry about it.
Jake Sanford, is a former intern of AdmissionsCheckup.com and a student at Georgetown University.