Ten Ways to Calm Down in SAT Test

In This Article

  • Soothing SAT nerves by preparing in advance
  • Staying in the proper mood during the test

What's that grinding noise? Oh, it's your teeth. The SAT can ratchet up the anxiety level of every test-taker. A few techniques in this chapter — ten, to be exact — can help you de-stress.


Well before SAT day, make sure that you go over this book carefully and shore up your weak spots. Try a practice test or two (or three or four online!) in Part V. Then rest, because you're ready for the big time.


Don't party the night before SAT day. Instead, celebrate when the whole thing's over. Fight SAT nerves with restful sleep. Also, don't study on the last night before the exam. Watch television, build an anthill, or do whatever you find relaxing. Then hit the mattress at a decent hour.


On SAT morning, set your alarm for a little earlier than you think you need to be up and about. Don't go overboard! You don't want too much extra time to obsess about all the things you haven't mastered yet. With a safety margin of, say, arriving at the testing center a half hour before the test begins, you can ready yourself for the exam with minimal pressure. Plus you have time to find the room, get a good seat, admire the view, and run to the restroom.


Research shows that some stress (notice the some) can actually help you perform better. Before you enter the testing room, envision a time in your life when you were nervous and had a good experience — say, just before the roller coaster hit the top of the track. Remind yourself that everything worked out fine, just as it will when you take the SAT. 


Before you start an SAT section, stretch your arms above your head as high as they'll go. Slide your legs straight out in front of you and wriggle your ankles. Feel better?


Not the type of rolling that occurs after a session with the guillotine (a device that chops heads off), but a yoga-inspired exercise that induces (brings about) calmness. Close your eyes whenever you feel yourself tensing up. Let your head drop all the way forward, roll it in a circle, open your eyes, and hit the test again.


Breathing is always a good idea, and deep breathing is an even better one. When the SAT overwhelms you, pull in a slow bucketful of air and then exhale even more slowly.


On SAT day, friends are a pain in the neck. Why? Because your friends will say things like “What's the meaning of supercilious?” “How do you solve for three variables?” And you'll think, “I don't know what supercilious means! I have no idea what a variable is! I'm going to fail, and no college will take me, and my life will be ruined.” Make a pact with your friends to stay silent about SAT questions or SAT-related information, or sit by yourself in the corner.


A fatalist (one who accepts that much of life is out of control and that whatever happens, happens) does best on the SAT. Stop obsessing. Just sit down and do the test. You can worry about how you did after you've handed in the answer sheet.


No matter how bad it is, when you're taking the SAT, you're getting ever-closer to a truly wonderful time: the moment when you realize that the SAT is over, done, history. Focus on the future — that moment — whenever you feel yourself clench.