What to Do the Week Before the SAT

Learn how to prepare yourself mentally in the week before the SAT.
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1 Week to Go

What to Do the Week Before the SAT

128 Hours and Counting: Getting Ready for the Big Day
In this article we'll discuss what you should do the week before the SAT, what to expect in the exam room, and what happens after you've taken the test.

You want the week leading up to the test to go as smoothly as possible, so get yourself into a routine beginning on the Sunday night the week before the test (128 hours). Look at your calendar for that week and make sure you plan ahead for everything else in your life: homework, upcoming tests, papers due, after-school activities.

It's easy to forget some important things you need to do this week, so have your parents read this article, too. They can print out a copy from the RocketReview website so you don't have to give up your book.

Go Easy on Yourself This Week
Don't overload yourself this week. In fact, do what you can to lighten up your normal schedule. If you normally participate in two or three after-school activities, consider passing up anything you don't have to do.

Your parents should know that you need to be focused this week, too. They should let you delegate some of your normal responsibilities you can make up your chores the week after the SAT.

If your teachers hit you with any major assignments this week, maybe you and your classmates should ask for a minor postponement until after the SAT. Most teachers will understand if you need to slack off a bit this week—they probably remember what it was like to take the SAT and they know there's a whole lot more riding on the test these days than there was a generation ago.

Try to get into a routine in the days leading up to the test. Get to bed and wake up at reasonably consistent times. If it takes you a while to wake up in the morning, wake up an hour earlier than usual every day this week so that you'll have an extra hour on test day to clear your head; the SAT starts fairly early in the morning, and you want to be completely lucid when the test begins.

By the way, if it's cold season, wash your hands frequently the last thing you need going into the SAT is to get sick this week. You're not being obsessive or a hypochondriac here; most cold viruses pass from the environment to your hands, and from your hands to your face. (If you get sick the week before the test, it's not going to ruin your chances for the SAT, but do stay home from school and get well.)

Getting into the Right Frame of Mind
At the end of a season and leading up to the championship, athletes go through a "tapering phase" to make sure they perform at their peak when it counts. In a sense you've been a mental athlete, and you want to make sure that you perform at your peak when it counts: on the actual SAT.

For you, tapering consists of scaling back drastically the amount of preparation you've been doing so you can give your mind a chance to rest and rev up your motivation. During this week you should do much less work, but of a much higher quality. Instead of doing an entire section of an SAT, for example, spend the same amount of time focusing on three or four truly difficult questions. You'll gain far more by wrestling with a tough question for ten minutes—or more—than you will doing ten simple questions quickly.

In fact, don't do anything timed this week. Rehearse the techniques meticulously, getting everything just right. Trust me on this point: the best way to improve your test-taking speed and your test-taking accuracy is to practice mindfully, being hyperconscious of every little step you do.

This week is also an excellent time to see how far your skills have advanced since you started preparing for the test weeks ago. Get out your PSAT booklet, or your first few practice exams, and look over your work. You'll be so surprised at how you used to solve questions that you won't even recognize your work.

Keep up with your vocabulary work this week, but don't try to cram in more words than normal—doing so will not make much of a difference in your score and trying to do so will just heighten your anxiety level at a time when you should be taking it easy.

Don't wait until the last minute to locate your admission ticket. You can print one out from the College Board's website if you registered online.