You’ve been studying for months, and tomorrow morning you’re taking the SAT. Whether it’s your first time or, hopefully, the last time, you’re aiming for a score that will knock college admissions officials’ socks off. So, how should you be spending the last few hours before the exam?
The answer might come as a surprise and a relief—you should spend the night before the SAT relaxing.
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Take Care Of Test Day Logistics Early
Be sure to know where you’re going in the morning and have all the test materials you need to be collected and ready to go.
The night before the exam, there are a few SAT-related things you should do.
One is to review the test center information. Be sure you know where the test center is, how to get there, and exactly what time you need to show up.
It doesn’t hurt to do a “dry run” trip to the test center, just to be sure you don’t get lost on the way there. If you’re going to be driving the next day, take a trip over in your car. If you’re taking public transportation, find out the bus or train information and take a trip that way.
If the test is being administered at your high school, then you don’t have to worry about this issue. But, if you’re taking it in an unfamiliar place, you don’t want to discover that you don’t know where you’re going and get lost.
Furthermore, make sure you pick up some healthy test day snacks and have them packed and ready the night before. Foods with protein—string cheese, cottage cheese, hard-boiled eggs, et cetera—will give you some much-needed energy. Fruits are a sweet treat and provide a sugar boost that you might need after the Reading test.
Don’t forget to bring a bottle of water, too—who wants to spend their break time waiting in line for the water fountain?
Most importantly, make sure you have your pencils and calculator ready, too. Have the pencils pre-sharpened, and make sure that your calculator is in good working order with full batteries. You don’t want any malfunctions during the middle of the Math test.
Spend Some Time With Friends, But Don’t Party Hard
Hanging out with your friends will help you take your mind off the test and fend off that pesky night-before anxiety.
Get together with your buds and do something you like—play video games, see a movie, go bowling, grab a slice at your favorite pizza place. Just don’t go overboard and party until after midnight. The key is to enjoy yourself and take your mind off the exam.
Importantly, this means that you shouldn’t spend the entire time gabbing with your friends about the SAT—as tempting as it might be. If you think this will be impossible to avoid, you might want to do something on your own—you don’t want to psych yourself out with a big group freak-out the night before the exam.
The most important thing to remember is, don’t try to fit in any last-minute studying. Whatever you gain from doing some last-minute practice tests or running through flashcards is going to be outweighed by the stress it creates for you.
What if you have an off day and score 20 points lower on the practice test than you normally do? You don’t need a major confidence blow the night before the test. So put all your prep materials away and say goodbye (for now).
Relax Your Mind & Get Some Good Sleep
Ease your anxiety and calm yourself with a little meditation, then get a good night’s sleep.
A good way to meditate is to simply sit calmly, with your eyes closed, for twenty minutes. Breathe in and out deeply, and focus on repeating a word. If worries or anxious thoughts come into your head, calmly draw your focus back to the word (sometimes called a ‘mantra’).
Countless scientific studies have shown this type of meditation has a calming and healthy effect on your mind and body.
Furthermore, be sure to get a good night’s rest. This means you shouldn’t eat a heavy dinner, which will, unfortunately, keep you up at night. (But maybe your mom or dad can help you prepare your favorite meal—cooking is another way to take your mind off the exam!)
Don’t exercise too soon before bed, and limit your screen time in the hours before bed too. You’ll want to have at least eight hours of sleep before the exam. If you’re someone who tends to need more than eight hours of sleep, then factor that requirement in.
If you have a hard time getting to sleep, read before bed, just don’t read up on test prep materials. TVs and other electronic gadgets have blue lights that make it difficult for your eyes and brain to shut down for sleep.
Try not to use anything like melatonin or prescription sleep medication the night before the test if possible—many of these things will leave you groggy the next day, and you don’t want to put anything in your body that you don’t know the effects of.
However, if you need some help catching some Zzzs, putting on a sleep mask and turning on a white noise machine can’t hurt.
Eat Right & Gather All Your Stuff The Morning Of
Eat a good breakfast and take care of all your last-minute needs, then get ready—it’s time for the main event.
Now that you’ve gotten a good night’s rest and done everything you can to calm yourself, morning has arrived! If meditation worked for you the evening before, the morning is another good time to meditate and center yourself for the day ahead.
And a good day starts with eating a good breakfast. This should include something with protein to give you energy for the day ahead—but nothing too filling that will sit heavy in your stomach during the test.
If you normally drink coffee or some other form of caffeine in the morning, it’s okay to have your regular amount—but if you don’t, the day of the SAT is not the time to start putting caffeine in your system. It could make you incredibly anxious.
The same rule applies to any type of medication, such as Adderall. If you take it regularly, of course, then take your normal dosage. But don’t start a new prescription or up your dosage on the day of the exam—it could backfire on you and make you incredibly anxious or jittery while you’re taking the test.
As you eat your breakfast, it’s not a bad idea to read something—a newspaper or magazine, or a section of a novel—to get your brain going and ready for the Reading section. But don’t go and read test prep materials. Why? There’s no reason to make yourself nervous right before the test.
And make sure to take a bathroom break. While there will be time to use the restroom during the exam, make sure you go before the test so that you won’t be distracted as you begin.
And while you’re out in the hallway in the test center, try to separate yourself from whatever anxious, test-related conversations take place among your fellow test-takers. Perhaps you can sit quietly by yourself and meditate for a few minutes, or go outside and catch a few breaths of fresh air before the exam begins.
Just make sure that you’re in your assigned room and seat by the time the test begins!
After The Test’s Over, Relax Some More
Congratulate yourself for all your hard work and take a real break.
Take a breather—don’t obsess over questions that you think you got wrong, or sections where you thought your performance was less-than-stellar. Remember, there will always be another opportunity to take the SAT, and that whatever score you get on the test does not define who you are.
If you decide that you’re going to take the test all over again, then give yourself some time to rest. Then, make a study plan—what areas did you feel like you needed improvement in? Plan to drill those sections.
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Night Before The SAT FAQ
What’s the most important thing I should do the night before?
Sleep. Get a full night’s worth of sleep so you’re physically and mentally rested for the test.
Should I cram the night before?
No, don’t worry about cramming the night before the SAT, if you can help it. You’ll burn energy instead of getting information in your brain.
Is it a good idea to hang out with friends?
Honestly, as long as you get a full night of sleep, it’s okay to spend some time hanging out with friends. They can ease your nerves.
What else can I do before going to sleep?
Consider meditation. A brief meditation session can help calm your mind and nerves, plus it’ll help you get to sleep easier.