SAT Test Day Walk Through


SAT Test Day Walk Through

This post originally appeared on the Magoosh SAT blog.

So, you’ve spent tons of time studying for the SAT, registered for the test, but then it hits you—what do you actually do the 24 hours before your SAT test day? Stay up all night cramming last minute? Chug three cups of coffee? Get there 5 minutes before the test is supposed to start?

Welcome to your step-by-step walk through of what your SAT test day will be like, with some tips to help you get the score you want for acceptance into the school of your dreams!

Month Preceding the Test:

Besides the obvious things you should do like “study” and “register to take the test,” here are a couple of tricks for staying focused during the test that you should work on in the month or so before:

  • Resolve emotional distractions. They’re not easy to deal with or predict, but it will do you some good to work out any pressing emotional pressure before the standardized test.
  • Take full practice tests and follow an SAT study guide. These are two powerful resources that will keep you on track and prepare you for the actual test itself better than other resources.
  • Stay healthy. Drink water, eat healthy meals, and get fresh air regularly to help keep you alert while studying for your SAT test day.

Night Before Your SAT Test Day:

  • Lay off the books. The night before your SAT test day should not be an all-night cramming session. Yes, you can cram and yes, it might even help you a little bit. But by far the most effective way to study is incrementally and over time—and preferably with a study schedule that helps you plan out your studying intervals.
  • Collect your materials. In addition to what College Board tells you to bring, there are a few supplemental materials you may find helpful. Here is a complete annotated list of what you should bring to your SAT test day (and that you should gather in a bag the night before).
    • Admission ticket (print from the SAT website)
    • No. 2 pencils (They can be mechanical, but they should be sharpened, and comfortable for you to use)
    • Eraser
    • Photo ID
    • Calculator
    • Snacks (Foods that are too sugary, salty, or fatty will cause dehydration and eventually you will crash. Granola bars, trail mix with M&Ms, and apples are all good choices)
    • Water (A clear bottle with no label, though in my experience they aren’t that strict)
    • Gum
    • Watch (One that you’re accustomed to, preferably an analog watch with no beeper that might go off!)
    • Not your cell phone!
  • Wear comfortable clothes. Choose that college hoodie that you’ve worn to every standardized test since freshman year, and the yoga pants that fit you perfectly. Pajamas are completely socially acceptable in this context; nobody cares as long as you don’t wear something squeaky, itchy, or otherwise distracting.
  • Go to sleep at 10:30 pm. Realistically, you should go to sleep when you are used to and is healthy. Whether you’re a 9-hours-a-nighter or a 6-hour night-owl-early-bird combination like me, go to sleep when you will get the max hours you can sleep all the way through. 10:30 gives you a standard 8 hours, which is a good guideline.

The Big Day

  • Wake up at 6:30 am. Rise and shine, it is go time! Waking up this early on your SAT test day will help you be truly awake by the time you need to take the test. Take a shower, eat a delicious breakfast (granola, an omelet with veggies, and fruit are all good options). Drink coffee if you do normally. Coffee can be a great stimulant if used in moderation, but be careful you don’t drink too much!
  • Leave your house 20 minutes earlier than you think you should.
  • Arrive at 7:45 am. This is what College Board recommends, and honestly gives you plenty of wiggle room so you don’t feel stressed about missing your test. When you get there, you will have time to find the assignment table and boards, locate your testing room, and make your way to it. Who knows, you may even have time to socialize and get some nervous energy out.
  • Doors close at 8:00 am, paperwork from 8:00-8:30 am. If it’s your first SAT, don’t psych yourself out and think you’ll be taking your test the moment you walk in the door. You’ve got at least 30 minutes before you get your test, during which you and your answer card get good quality time.
  • If you finish a section early, it means you’ve got extra time to look over your test. If you’ve finished that too—take a brain break. One of the best things you can do for an exhausted mind is to just let it go blank for the 5 minutes before the next section.
  • Breaks. If you didn’t have time during the test, this is a wonderful time to meditate, or ground yourself in some way. Despite the fact that they tell you not to talk about the test, it can be very therapeutic to discuss the difficulty of different sections and remember that you aren’t in this alone.
  • Approximately 1:00 pm - congratulations! You’re done. Go get ice cream. Listen to music far too loud. Don’t plan on doing anything using your brain for at least 2 hours because it will resemble a putty-like substance that refuses to function. Good luck! 🙂


About the author:

Cassidy recently graduated from San Dieguito High School Academy located in Southern California, and is looking forward to studying at Barnard College at Columbia University next fall. She loves pretty much everything from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to classic American Literature, but above all learning new things and meeting new people. Like her older brother Zack (who also works at Magoosh!), she also enjoys drinking copious amounts of coffee.

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