How to (maybe) survive the SAT/ACT

How to (maybe) survive the SAT/ACT

Whitney Atkinson, Managing Editor

Every junior or senior in America has heard the acronym that follows them down school hallways and rests on the tip of their parents’ tongues.

When are you taking the SAT?

Did you sign up to take your ACT?

Have you studied your SAT vocab?

The tone and voice varies but it is all the same: any student planning on going to college is required to take both of these tests—a lot of the time, twice—and the time is ticking to get studying up until the big day. You can buy thousand-page books on how to take the test, so instead, here goes a guide to getting through your test day with tips that hopefully you cannot find in any textbook.

Hopefully you have spent the last few months preparing for this day by reading your 1,000-page manual, flipping through Quizlet vocab (Wait, what is Quizlet? It is a life-saver, that’s what it is. Go check it out:, and touching up on equations you learned in math class back in 2004. If not, it does not mean you are completely hopeless. Last-minute studying is better than never studying, even if that means checking the College Board website five minutes before entering the building just to check if it costs you points to leave an answer unbubbled. But the full truth is, you will never receive a high, college-admissions-president-impressing score. So in order to focus and get yourself in the mode to actually study? Throw your phone out the window. (I would tell you I am kidding, but I am not.) Eliminating distractions during studying is key to ensuring that you are focusing on and retaining the information you are trying– and hopefully succeeding– to cramming into your brain archives. Flashcards are friends, not food. It will not kill you every once in a while to look up an SAT word. So here is one! Superfluous. It is an adjective meaning an excessive amount of something. So for example, this paragraph is getting superfluously long. Next point!

The morning you get there, make you sure you have a number two, non-mechanical pencil. Like, the yellow one you do not click to get the lead out? Yes. If you come to the location with a mechanical pencil you will not be allowed to complete the test with it. Technically that means you get to go home and sleep in and not worry about the test anymore, but it is actually not a good thing because you lost money and you will not have one of the necessary tests required to apply to a college. So long story short: bring a regular, soft lead pencil. Don’t be the nub who has to take their friend’s spare.

Somewhere on the internet you can probably find a statistic showing a high number of high school students choose not to eat breakfast. This is not necessarily a bad thing on test day, though it is encouraged, because if your nerves are too frenzied in the morning for food, you can bring a snack and enjoy it during the break! Most people grab a granola bar, but don’t be scared to pull out a toaster waffle or a hot pocket. Trust me, the room is quiet enough to hear each other’s stomachs growling during the test; you do not want to be the one sounding like a dying whale.

One factor in test taking that is extremely important is your comfort level while testing. This means that you should make sure that you have a jacket just in case the room is cold, you are wearing short sleeves underneath a jacket in case the room is hot, and making sure you’re caffeinated because, besides the fact that falling asleep during the test would lose you a lot of time, I’m sure drool on your answer document will not help you get a high score. Most students would rather take their tests on a couch or beanbag rather than in a stiff chair attached to a cold desk. If you find it hard to concentrate because you’re shifting every five seconds trying to get comfortable on your chair, why not try out James Steele Accelerated High School in Roanoke, home of the comfy chairs and fancy bathrooms? If being comfortable during test taking is a necessity for you, nothing compares to the luxury of a private school.

As much as you’d like to sprint down the hall and out of the door once you complete your test, spewing loose papers in your wake, take just two seconds to thank your testor. This person who has been awake since probably 6:00 AM, sitting in a classroom and watching you test for five hours with only the occasional, “please put your pencil down” deserves the recognition of gratitude. You never know; after being stuck in a classroom for six hours, just one simple “thank you” could mean the difference between going home grumpy and going home with a smile on their face.