Cracking the SAT
Taking the SAT
THE SAT IS A WEEK AWAY. WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
First of all, you should practice the techniques we’ve taught you on lots of practice tests. If you haven’t done so already, take and score the three practice tests at the back of this book, as well as the practice tests on our website. You can also download a practice test from the College Board’s website, www.collegeboard.com. Your guidance counselor may be able to give you a copy of a practice SAT as well.
If you want more practice, pick up a copy of our very own 11 Practice Tests for the SAT & PSAT at your local bookstore or through our website, at PrincetonReview.com/bookstore.
The SAT is a big deal, but you don’t want to let it scare you. Sometimes students get so nervous about doing well that they freeze up on the test and ruin their scores. The best thing to do is to think of the SAT as a game. It’s a game you can get good at, and beating the test can be fun. When you go into the test center, just think about all those poor students who don’t know how to Plug In when they see variables in the answer choices.
The best way to keep from getting nervous is to build confidence in yourself and in your ability to remember and use our techniques. When you take practice tests, time yourself exactly as you will be timed on the real SAT. Develop a sense of how long 25 minutes is and how much time you can afford to spend on cracking difficult problems. If you know ahead of time what to expect, you won’t be as nervous.
Of course, taking a real SAT is much more nerve-racking than taking a practice test. Prepare yourself ahead of time for the fact that 25 minutes will seem to go by a lot faster on a real SAT than it did on your practice tests.
It’s all right to be nervous; the point of being prepared is to keep from panicking.
Should You Sleep for 36 Hours?
Some guidance counselors tell their students to get a lot of sleep the night before the SAT. This probably isn’t a good idea. If you aren’t used to sleeping 12 hours a night, doing so will just make you groggy for the test. The same goes for going out all night: Tired people are not good test takers.
A much better idea is to get up early each morning for the entire week before the test and do your homework before school. This will get your brain accustomed to functioning at that hour of the morning. You want to be sharp at test time.
Before dinner the night before the test, spend an hour or so reviewing the Hit Parade. This will make the list fresh in your mind in the morning. You might also practice on a few real SAT math problems. You don’t want to exhaust yourself, but it will help to brush up.
Here are a few pointers for test day and beyond:
1. Eat a good breakfast before the test—your brain needs energy.
2. Work out a few SAT problems on the morning of the test to help dust off any cobwebs in your head and get you started thinking analytically.
3. Arrive at the test center early. Everyone is headed to the same place at the same time.
4. You must take acceptable identification to the test center on the day of the test. According to ETS, acceptable identification must include a recognizable photograph and your name. Acceptable forms of ID include your driver’s license, a school ID with a photo, or a valid passport. If you don’t have an official piece of ID with your signature and your photo, you can have your school make an ID for you using a Student ID form provided by the College Board. Complete instructions for making such an ID are found on the College Board’s website and in the SAT Registration Bulletin. According to ETS, the following forms of ID are unacceptable: a birth certificate, a credit card, or a Social Security card.
Make sure you read all of the rules in the Registration Bulletin, because conflicts with ETS are just not worth the headache. Your only concern on the day of the test should be beating the SAT. To avoid hassles and unnecessary stress, make absolutely certain that you take your admissions ticket and your ID with you on the day of the test.
5. The only outside materials you are allowed to use on the test are No. 2 pencils (wooden, NOT mechanical), a wristwatch (an absolute necessity), and a calculator. ETS’s latest rule is that mechanical pencils are not allowed. We’re not sure why, but you should take lots of sharpened wooden pencils just to be safe. Digital watches are best, but if it has a beeper, make sure you turn it off. Proctors will confiscate pocket dictionaries, word lists, portable computers, and the like. Proctors have occasionally also confiscated stopwatches and travel clocks. Technically, you should be permitted to use these, but you can never tell with some proctors. Take a watch and avoid the hassles.
6. Some proctors allow students to bring food into the test room; others don’t. Take some fruit (especially bananas) with you. Save them until your break and eat outside the test room.
7. You are going to be sitting in the same place for more than three hours, so make sure your desk isn’t broken or unusually uncomfortable. If you are left-handed, ask for a left-handed desk. (The center may not have one, but it won’t hurt to ask.) If the sun is in your eyes, ask to move. If the room is too dark, ask someone to turn on the lights. Don’t hesitate to speak up. Some proctors just don’t know what they’re doing.
8. Make sure your booklet is printed legibly. Booklets sometimes contain printing errors that make some pages impossible to read. One year more than 10,000 students had to retake the SAT because of a printing error in their booklets. Also, check your answer sheet to make sure it isn’t flawed.
9. As you know, you can skip around within a section as much as you want. However, you can’t skip around from one section to another. Even if you finish a section early, you can’t look back at a previous section or jump ahead. Use the extra time to take a few deep breaths, and then go back to any questions in the section that you weren’t sure about.
10. You will get three breaks during the test: Two 5-minute breaks, and one 1-minute break. Ask for it if your proctor doesn’t give it to you. You should be allowed to go to the bathroom at this time. The breaks are a very good idea. Be sure to get up, move around, and clear your head.
11. ETS allows you to cancel your SAT scores. Unfortunately, you can’t cancel only your Math, your Writing, or your Critical Reading—it’s all or nothing. You will also have to cancel them before you know what your scores are. You can cancel scores at the test center by asking your proctor for a “Request to Cancel Test Scores” form. You must complete this form and hand it in before you leave the test center. If you decide to cancel your scores after you leave, you can do so by contacting ETS by cable, overnight delivery, or e-mail (email@example.com). The address is in the Registration Bulletin, or you can call ETS at 609-771-7600 to find out where to send your score cancellation request.
We recommend that you not cancel your scores unless something really horrible happened: you got sick, you passed out, et cetera. Don’t cancel your scores on test day just because you have a bad feeling—even the best test takers feel a little shaky after the SAT. You’ve got five days to think it over.
12. Make sure you darken all your responses before the test is over. At the same time, erase any extraneous marks on the answer sheet. A stray mark in the margin of your answer sheet can result in correct responses being marked as wrong.
13. Don’t assume that your test was scored correctly. Send away for ETS’s Question and Answer Service whenever it is offered. It costs money, but it’s worth it. You’ll get back copies of your answer sheet, a test booklet, and an answer key. Check your answers against the key and complain if you think your test has been scored incorrectly. (Don’t throw away the test booklet you receive from the Question and Answer Service. If you’re planning to take the SAT again, save it for practice. If you’re not, give it to your guidance counselor or school library.)
14. You deserve to take your SAT under good conditions. If you feel that your test was not administered properly (the high school band was practicing outside the window, or your proctor hovered over your shoulder during the test), call us immediately at 800-2-REVIEW and we’ll tell you what you can do about it.