Last Updated on April 20, 2023
Just about every high school student about to take the SAT will look for last-minute SAT tips to help ensure that test day goes as smoothly as possible. Look no further, because in this article I’ll give you plenty of SAT test-day tips and tips for the days leading up to your SAT.
If you’re wondering what to do in the week before your exam, the day before, the morning of, and during the actual SAT, I’ve got you covered!
Here’s everything I’ll discuss:
- How to Handle SAT Test Week
- SAT Test-Day Tips
- Test-Taking Strategy: 7 Keys to Success
- Be Prepared for Some Ups and Downs
- Don’t Worry If You Struggle With the First Few Questions
- Don’t Try to Determine How Well You’re Doing
- Compartmentalize Your Work
- Be Disciplined With Your Time-Management
- Never Leave a Multiple-Choice Question Blank
- Guess Strategically on Grid-In Questions
- Key Takeaways: How Do I Do Well on SAT Test Day?
- What’s Next?
Let’s start by talking about how to handle the week before your SAT.
How to Handle SAT Test Week
It’s easy (and perfectly natural) to get nervous or worried the week of your SAT test. However, there are some simple steps you can take in the week leading up to your exam that will help prepare your mind and body for the stress of test day.
Overall, you want to be sure that you prioritize your well-being during the week of your test, so that you feel confident, calm, and cool when you sit for your test. So, let’s discuss 5 key things you can do during SAT test week to help ensure that you perform at your peak on test day.
Eat Healthy and Hydrate
When we’re stressed out, we may skip meals or eat foods that aren’t as healthy as those we’d normally eat. The result can be that we feel run down, tired, jittery, or unable to think clearly. Of course, SAT test week can bring significant stress. So, if we’re not paying attention, we can end up sidelining some of the basics when it comes to self-care.
Your brain and body perform at their best when they are properly fueled and hydrated. So, in the days leading up to your test, make sure to eat healthy foods at regular meal times and drink enough water to stay comfortably hydrated. That way you’ll have a clear head and plenty of energy for test day.
Even if you don’t feel particularly stressed about the SAT, eating healthy and hydrating are still important practices for test week. Moreover, you don’t have to wait until test week to implement these healthy practices. The sooner the better!
TTP PRO TIP:
In the days leading up to your test, make sure to eat healthy foods at regular meal times and drink enough water to stay comfortably hydrated.
Get Some Exercise
Another way to optimize your well-being is to get sufficient exercise. Exercise can actually improve our energy levels overall, while also improving the quality of our sleep. Plus, it’s a great way to reduce stress and improve your mood.
So, get your heart rate up and your blood flowing on a regular basis in the week leading up to your SAT. Do some yoga, kick the soccer ball around with friends, go for a bike ride, or go for a jog. Just don’t start a hardcore, daily exercise regimen for the first time during test week!
TTP PRO TIP:
Regular exercise can help improve your energy level, the quality of your sleep, and your mood.
Get Some Sleep
Getting a healthy amount of sleep is critical to your success on the SAT. The week of your test is not the time to go to bed late or wake up extra early. So, do your best to maintain a healthy, regular sleeping schedule.
TTP PRO TIP:
Maintain a healthy, regular sleeping schedule during test week.
Stress can snowball. So, by doing your best to minimize stress during test week, you put yourself in a better position to have minimal stress on test day.
If possible, in the days leading up your SAT, stick to the people and activities that keep your stress low.
TTP PRO TIP:
Avoid stress as much as possible in the days leading up to your SAT.
Michael Jordan, one of the best basketball players of all time, practiced shooting hoops even when he was not on a basketball court. He’d visualize the net, the ball, the distance he was from the hoop. Then, he’d visualize making shot after shot.
Visualizing your success can help you feel confident and ready for test day, and make it easier for you to perform up to your true skill level. So, in the days leading up to your SAT, spend a little time each day visualizing yourself performing well during the SAT. Also, imagine yourself feeling great after your test — that can be an awesome motivator!
TTP PRO TIP:
Visualizing your success can help you feel confident and ready for test day, and make it easier for you to perform up to your true skill level.
Should I Take Practice Tests During Test Week?
No doubt, practice tests are a very valuable tool in your SAT prep. However, taking numerous full-length practice tests right before the real test is not a wise move.
For one, full-length practice tests require a lot of energy, and you don’t want to wear yourself out in the days leading up to your SAT.
Secondly, if you’ve given yourself enough time for your test prep, including shoring up your test-taking strategy, then taking many full-length practice tests during the week before your test will provide you little value as far as learning new information or getting your timing down.
You will know your test date well in advance, so plan to take some full-length practice tests in the weeks leading up to your exam. Then, during the week just before you take the SAT, you could take one or two more practice tests as you finish your preparation. Try to take your final practice test no closer than 2 or 3 days before your actual SAT, so you have a breather before test day. Certainly, it’s best not to take a practice test on the day before your SAT.
TTP PRO TIP:
Plan to take most of your SAT practice tests during the weeks leading up to the exam.
Now, let’s discuss what to do — and what not to do — on the day before your test.
What Should I Do the Day Before My SAT Test?
There are 3 key things you can do on the day before your SAT.
One of the best things you can do the day before test day is relax! Do something fun but not overly strenuous. Get some light exercise. See a movie or grab pizza with some friends. DON’T spend the day totally immersed in SAT books. Instead, do some light studying and review to stay game-ready, but remember that you’ll want to be fresh for tomorrow. Think of it this way: Would a marathon runner run 26 miles the day before the marathon?
The idea of not cramming like crazy the day before the SAT makes some test-takers anxious. But trust me, running through some flashcards, reviewing some notes, and solving some practice questions is plenty to keep you sharp for your exam.
Remember, if you’ve been properly studying for the SAT, there is no need to cram on the day before your SAT. Moreover, last-minute cramming is not an effective study method for standardized tests such as the SAT.
TTP PRO TIP:
The best thing you can do the day before your SAT is relax and do something fun.
Get a Regular Night of Sleep
On the night before your test, go to bed at a reasonable hour so you can get a good night’s sleep, but don’t feel obligated to get 10 hours or some other larger-than-normal amount of sleep in order to be “rested” for your exam. A regular, full night’s sleep will do just fine and ensure that you’re not groggy in the morning.
Prep Items You Need for Test Day
Another thing you can do the day before your test is pack whatever items you need for test day, so that you don’t have to worry about getting your belongings together or finding missing items on the morning of the test.
So, you could do the following:
- Set out the outfit you’ll wear on test day.
- Print your admission ticket and pack it in a bag or backpack with your photo ID, calculator, No. 2 pencils, and face mask (if required).
- Pack a watch and a backup calculator or batteries.
- Have a snack and drink ready to go. (You can eat your snacks during your breaks.)
TTP PRO TIP:
Pack your test-day gear the day before your SAT, so you don’t have to worry about finding items on the morning of the test.
Let’s now turn our attention to test day.
SAT Test-Day Tips
It’s the big day! SAT test day doesn’t have to be a nerve-racking experience. Let’s discuss some ways to make sure you’re ready to rock your SAT, starting with what to do on the morning of your test.
What Should I Do on the Morning of the Test?
First and foremost, you want the morning of your SAT to feel as normal as possible. So, try not to skip doing things that you would normally do, such as eating breakfast or having a morning cup of coffee. Also, if possible, try to wake up at the time you would on a typical school day.
If you wake up on the morning of the test and everything is out of whack — you wake up much earlier than you normally would, skip breakfast, chug a gallon of water, or have an energy drink for the first time in your life — you may walk into your test feeling frazzled, queasy, or tired.
So, stick to what you know rather than implement any new or drastic routines. That way you’ll feel comfortable walking into the testing room.
TTP PRO TIP:
Don’t implement any new or drastic routines on the morning of your SAT.
Give Yourself Extra Time for Your Commute
It’s smart to give yourself a little extra time to get to your testing site. Particularly if you have a bit of a commute, err on the side of caution. For instance, give yourself an extra 15 or 20 minutes to make the journey, just in case there is any traffic or public transportation gets delayed. That said, I don’t recommend getting to your school or test center 45 minutes early, or some other inordinate amount of time in advance. Waiting around for a long time at a test center may serve to increase nervous anticipation.
Warm Up With a Handful of Practice Questions
Either before you leave for the testing site or if you get there early, warming up by doing some practice questions, such as three Math and three Reading and Writing questions, can you really help get your head in the game. By completing a handful of questions, you get into test mode before you start the test, rather than during it.
Get Pumped With Your Favorite Songs!
A good way to get pumped up for your test is to blast some music that makes you feel happy and energized. So, put on some of your favorite songs and get excited to kick some butt!
TTP PRO TIP:
Listening to some feel-good music on the morning of your SAT is a great way to get yourself pumped up for your test.
Now, let’s discuss some key tips for during your exam.
Test-Taking Strategy: 7 Keys to Success
You’re in the testing room and ready to begin your exam! Let’s start by discussing some strategies related to the psychological factors that come into play when test-takers sit for the SAT.
#1: Be Prepared for Some Ups and Downs
Think of the SAT as a long journey. As with all journeys, expect to encounter some ups and downs.
Don’t get overly excited when you recognize concepts or get answers to questions quickly. More importantly, don’t get discouraged when you hit some rough patches during your test. Stay level and focused. Be cool, calm, and confident.
TTP PRO TIP:
Before your test begins, remind yourself that you can expect some ups and downs when taking a 3-hour exam.
#2: Don’t Worry If You Struggle With the First Few Questions
If you have a rough start to your SAT or to a particular section of the test, try not to get hung up on it or view it as a sign of what the rest of the test will be like.
Of course, it would be ideal to start off with what feel like easy questions. It would be great to have no trouble at all narrowing down answer choices. However, that won’t necessarily be the situation. You don’t want to lose your focus on subsequent questions just because you had a hard time with the first few questions you saw.
Remember, even if you did get the first few questions wrong, you can still earn a great SAT score!
Even if you get the first few questions of any section wrong, you can still earn a great SAT score.
#3: Don’t Try to Determine How Well You’re Doing
It’s tempting (but wholly unproductive) to try to determine how well you’re doing as you’re taking your SAT. Don’t make this mistake!
No matter what you think you know about the kind of test the SAT is, no matter how much experience you have with it, or how good you think you are at gauging what your SAT score will be, you’ll never know how well you’re doing until after the test is over.
Furthermore, wondering how well you’re doing distracts you from answering the question in front of you. You want your full concentration to be on the problem at hand. You don’t want to be distracted by some hypothetical calculation in your head of how many questions you’ve gotten right or wrong.
Your best move on the SAT is to stay busy answering the questions presented to you. Don’t spend even a minute of time wondering how you’re doing. Trust me, you’ll have enough time after the exam to wonder about it!
TTP PRO TIP:
Wondering how well you’re doing as you take the SAT distracts you from answering the question in front of you and is a waste of your time.
Let’s talk a little more about this important concept of staying engaged in the moment.
#4: Compartmentalize Your Work
Staying engaged in the moment is essential to your success on the SAT. When you’re working on a question, focus all of your thoughts and energy on that question. Don’t worry about your performance on a previous section or what questions might lie ahead. Certainly don’t worry about how other test-takers in the room are doing.
Focus and be in the moment. This is your time to shine.
Compartmentalizing your work helps ensure that you really pay attention to each question you see. That way, you can bring your full understanding and skill set to bear as you answer questions. So, focus on the question at hand, and think about other problems as you come to them.
TTP PRO TIP:
Staying engaged in the moment and compartmentalizing your work helps ensure that you really pay attention to each question you see.
Now that we’ve covered the key psychological factors of sitting for the SAT, let’s discuss the more practical side of test-taking strategy.
#5: Be Disciplined With Your Time-Management
A major component of earning a good SAT score is savvy time-management.
Fortunately, if you’ve followed a smart study plan that includes taking full-length practice tests in the final stage of your SAT prep, then you’ve had plenty of time to practice and hone your pacing strategies.
The hitch is that, in the moment on test day, when perhaps you’re feeling more pressure or anxiety than you did during practice tests, it can be easy to let time get away from you — to rush or get stalled — or to fall back into bad habits if you’re not paying attention.
You have to be disciplined and stay on your game. If you have practiced spending an average of 1 minute and 15 seconds on each question in the non-calculator math section, don’t suddenly start spending 3 minutes on each question, checking and rechecking your work. If you generally take 3-4 minutes to read the passage in the reading section, don’t suddenly start spending 5 minutes reading each passage, poring over every word.
Of course, there will be some variation in how long it takes you to answer different types of questions. The point is to stick to the timing strategies that brought you success on practice tests. Stick to what brought you to the point you’re at — ready to hit your target SAT score. Otherwise, you risk putting yourself in a position where you don’t even get a chance to look at many questions at the end of a section.
TTP PRO TIP:
Be disciplined with your time-management on test day. Don’t let the excitement of the test derail the pacing strategies you used with success during your SAT prep.
With the importance of proper time-management in mind, let’s discuss some guessing strategies.
#6: Never Leave a Multiple-Choice Question Blank
As you may know, there is no point deduction for a wrong answer or answer left blank on the SAT.
Thus, it does not make sense to ever leave a multiple-choice question blank, even if you have no idea what the correct answer is. After all, a wrong answer is no worse than a blank one. But by selecting any answer, you at least give yourself a 25% shot at guessing correctly. If you’re able to eliminate 1 or 2 answer choices, then hey, you’re giving yourself a 33% or 50% chance.
On the other hand, if you leave the question blank, your chance of getting it correct is 0%. Why not at least give yourself the chance to increase your score?
TTP PRO TIP:
It does not make sense to ever leave a multiple-choice question blank, even if you have no idea what the correct answer is.
Of course, if you have to guess on some questions, you want to guess as intelligently as possible. So, by no means am I saying that if you realize you’re going to have to guess on a question, you shouldn’t even bother trying to narrow down the answer choices.
Make Educated Guesses When Possible
Let’s say you’re presented with a couple of questions that involve grammar rules that you know trip you up. You can see that those questions are playing out just as similar ones did on your practice tests. So, judging by how things are going, you know that you won’t be able to determine the correct answers in a reasonable amount of time (or possibly at all). Still, there will probably be at least one answer choice in each of those questions that is so clearly wrong that you can confidently eliminate it. Thus, even though you have to guess, you’re still upping your chances of guessing right.
So, whenever you can, quickly eliminate any answers you’re pretty sure are wrong. Even eliminate ones you suspect are wrong. Then, take your best educated guess from the remaining choices. And even if you have to guess wildly, select an answer choice no matter what!
Now, our considerations are a little different for guessing on grid-in questions. Let’s discuss.
#7: Guess Strategically on Grid-In Questions
Grid-In questions are like multiple-choice questions on the SAT in that blank answers and wrong answers are treated the same way: there is no point deduction for either.
However, grid-in questions don’t present you with possible answers to choose from. So, it takes longer to fill in answers to grid-in questions than to fill a single bubble for a multiple-choice question.
Thus, guessing on every grid-in question you don’t know the answer to doesn’t really make sense. After all, doing so could eat up precious time you could spend on questions you do know how to answer.
For example, say you’re presented with a grid-in problem involving compound interest, and you know that you’ve forgotten a key element of the compound interest formula. Simply writing in some random number as your answer won’t give you a meaningful shot at getting the question correct. In other words, gridding in an answer will only waste time. So, you may as well leave the answer blank and take another pass at the question after you’ve finished the rest of the section, if you have time then.
Now, if you’ve done the work to solve a grid-in problem to the best of your ability, even if you know your abilities with the given question type are shaky, you might as well grid-in your answer. After all, in that case, you’re not making a totally random guess. You’re making your best guess. Sometimes your best guess might not be great, but at least it’s not plucked out of thin air.
TTP PRO TIP:
If you need to pluck numbers out of thin air to answer a grid-in question, don’t bother. Leave it blank and spend your time on questions you can answer.
Now, let’s review the last-minute SAT tips and tricks we’ve discussed.
Key Takeaways: How Do I Do Well on SAT Test Day?
To perform at your peak during your SAT, follow these simple but essential strategies.
During test week:
- Eat healthy and hydrate.
- Get some exercise.
- Get some sleep.
- Avoid stress.
- Visualize success!
In the days leading up to your test:
- Don’t take too many full-length practice tests.
The day before the test:
- Relax and do something fun.
- Get a regular night of sleep.
- Prep items you need for test day.
- Don’t cram! Stick to light studying and review.
The morning of the test:
- Stick to your normal routine, including eating breakfast.
- Give yourself a little extra time to get to the testing site.
- Warm up with a few Math and Reading and Writing questions.
- Pump yourself up with some feel-good music.
During the test:
- Be prepared for some ups and downs.
- Don’t worry if you struggle with the first question or two.
- Don’t try to determine how well you’re doing.
- Compartmentalize your work.
- Be disciplined with your time-management.
- Never leave a multiple-choice question blank; make your best guess.
- Guess strategically, not totally randomly, on grid-in questions.
Now that you have some practical and effective last-minute tips for the SAT, you may want to check out our article about what kind of SAT score you’ll need to be competitive at the Ivy Leagues.