How to Prepare for SAT Test Day

Achieving your goal score on the SAT requires more than just a good night’s sleep the night before your test. Having a successful test day means planning ahead of time so your day can go as smoothly as possible. Like an athlete training for an Olympic competition, you as a test-taker must train yourself to be ready for SAT test day so you can trump any difficult question the test presents or any less than ideal situations—like being in a classroom that is too hot or too cold—that your test site throws at you. Check out these tips below as you start to mentally prepare for test day:

1. Do your homework

Great athletes do not become great overnight; similarly, great test-takers don’t achieve their highest scores without practice. Learning to tackle SAT questions, whether through self-study with a prep book or working with an SAT tutor, is an essential skill that needs to be developed in the months leading up to your test date. Remember that preparation for your SAT test day begins long before you’re packing a mid-test snack the night before! 

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2. Speaking of snacks, plan your breakfast and mid-test snack for SAT test day

Fuel is critically important on test day. You need to begin the day strongly with a nutritious breakfast and avoid a mid-test crash by keeping your energy levels up. Plan on having a substantive breakfast on test day, but don’t try something completely unfamiliar to you. Eat superfoods—such as blueberries, whole grains, etc.—that usually don’t upset your stomach, and if you want to drink a caffeinated beverage, such as coffee, make sure it’s not more than your usual amount of caffeine.

Bring a snack and a drink for your mid-test break, after confirming that your test center allows one. Foods that are easy on an anxious stomach and that don’t have to be refrigerated are best. Consider bringing pretzels, a granola bar, or some dry cereal and a piece of fruit to keep your energy up. 

3. Gather all materials you will need for your test and leave them someplace you can easily grab them as you walk out the door

Avoid stress on SAT test day by gathering your test day necessities the night before. Make sure you have your sharpened pencils, an eraser, your photo ID, your test admission ticket, your calculator, and any spare batteries for your calculator that you might need. Pack your snack in your test day bag, as well, and leave the bag in a place you can easily find it in the morning—on the table next to your front door, by your shoes, or maybe even in the car if weather won’t affect the food’s condition. This planning should help you avoid the far too common “morning rush” on test day. 

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4. Aim to get ample sleep for two to three nights before SAT test day

If you ask any professional marathon runner, he or she will tell you that not only is sleep the night before the race important, but quality of sleep in the nights leading up to the big day are also crucial for optimal performance. The SAT is a long test and you’ll be able to perform at your best when you are sufficiently rested. Focus on getting at least eight hours of sleep in the two to three nights leading up to your test. This can be difficult to do with a busy high school schedule that requires you to rise early, but remember that performance on the SAT is a priority for a successful college application cycle. Prioritize your sleep the week of the SAT and you might find that you’re scoring a few points higher on the real test than you did on your practice tests. 

5. Find a morning routine that allows you to feel awake and alert by test time

SAT test day is not a time to switch up your morning routine. Spend the month leading up to your exam figuring out what routine works best for you in the morning. Does reading the newspaper help you feel alert enough to answer SAT questions? Does “warming up” with a crossword puzzle work? Perhaps even a quick SAT question of the day would help. Develop a morning routine that allows you to be in your best frame of testing mind and then execute that routine on test day. Putting in the effort to find a test day routine that works for you can help pave the way to SAT test day success.