Last Minute Tips to Help You Ace the SAT


Credit: Sally-Emma Calandroni

Haley Hartner, News Editor

The SAT, being that it is one of the most standardized and highly anticipated tests in a high schooler’s career, makes it also one of the greatest stress factors of Junior year.  The manifestation of anxiety and panic that can result from the approaching date, especially when one has not consistently indulged in practice tests and tutors, can bring restlessness at a time when composure is imperative.  

Here are five easy tips to follow the night before the test to ensure the best possible performance.

Tip 1: Review Weak Areas

While trying to cram in as many full practice tests as possible can be tempting the night before, this strategy is not always the most productive.  Recall the areas of the exam that have been most challenging and focus on those. Review previous mistakes made in the sections of practice exams that have earned the lowest scores.  Use this knowledge and try taking one or two practice tests, only for that section. Doing so will help to bring up the overall score of the test, especially if scores on the other sections are already above average.

Tip 2: Avoid Caffeine

Consuming caffeine the night before or the morning of the SAT may do more harm than good, in terms of retaining attention and performing well.  While caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, can help to increase awareness, it is also likely to increase anxiety, restlessness, and produce an upset stomach.  Unless caffeinated foods or drinks are part of a daily routine, avoid sudden dietary changes so close to the exam, and rely on more natural methods of bettering performance, such as sleeping at least eight hours before the test and eating a protein-filled breakfast in the morning.

Tip 3: Review Calculator Functions

Being that the SAT does include a calculator section for the math exam portion, it is important to have full knowledge of the calculator’s functions and how to access them before taking the exam. Try looking over the questions included in the calculator-approved sections of practice exams and answer them with a calculator that is familiar and will be used on the actual exam, this way there are no surprises come test day.  Also, make sure beforehand that the calculator is approved by College Board to use of the SAT.

Tip 4: Practice Timing

Though this aspect of the SAT should have been accounted for during the use of practice tests, timing oneself while reviewing the more challenging sections of the test can help to decrease the likelihood of time being called while questions remain unanswered.  Work on the areas that are lacking and try estimating how much time it takes to answer each question. An ideal time to answer each question is a minute or less, so be sure not to let the factor of time be responsible for a lower overall score.

Tip 5: Take it Easy Before Bed

Lastly, after all the last minute preparation is done throughout the day, it is important to rest.  Only so much information can be retained the night before for an exam that essentially takes at least a year to prepare for, so exerting an unnecessary amount of energy studying before bed will only have a detrimental effect.  A few hours before bed, try engaging in activities that are passive, and will help relax the mind. Possibly take a walk or watch a movie at home with family, but avoid using technology such as a cellphone or computer right before going to sleep.  This will have the opposite effect by acting as a stimulant rather than a relaxer.

While earning a high score on the SAT may seem like an insurmountable challenge at this time, remember that preparation and a positive mindset will inevitably pay off. Taking the SAT more than once is normal, and is actually encouraged by most universities, who will also consider factors such as previous class rigor and extracurricular participation when making a decision for admission.  Good luck!