Take a huge, deep breath, and then exhale as quickly as possible. Then, repeat the process until you feel lightheaded and fall over. Then, you’ll hit your head and form a blood clot in your brain. Then, you’ll miraculously transform into a megasavant, like the Rain Man. Then, you’ll get a 10,000 on your SAT. Then you’ll die. And then, in a few years, a Jonas brother will win an Oscar for starring in a movie about your life.
Actually, that’s probably not going to happen, so, you know, don’t do that. Instead, read these tips!
TIP #1: Self-diagnosis
Take a practice test from the College Board’s website and make some self-evaluations. Make sure the test is timed, and try to reasonably emulate test day conditions by taking the test in a quiet room with no distractions. The goal here is to get an idea of where you stand and which sections need the most work.
TIP #2: The Write Stuff. Haha!
But seriously, the essay portion counts for almost a third of your total writing score, so yeah, it’s, like, pretty important and stuff. Remember, the essay on the SAT is all about taking a position and supporting it with a strong thesis and clear body paragraphs. Make your point and prop it up with examples and evidence. Be decisive! Just pick a side and go with it. You’re not a politician yet, so don’t be a flip-flopper. Changing your mind halfway through your essay is a terrible idea that will cost you not only in time but in score as well. Practice writing essays with a timer to get a good feel for how quickly you need to write. Obviously, 25 minutes isn’t enough time to craft together your own War and Peace, but if it’s not at least better than Twilight…well, maybe you can raise your score some other way.
TIP #3: Practice Makes Prepared
If you ever get a fortune cookie that says, “Practice makes perfect,” throw it away. First of all, that was a proverb cookie, and they’re nowhere as good. Second, “practice makes perfect” is misleading. Raise your hand if you’ve ever spent weeks practicing perfectly for a piano recital but then get so nervous onstage that you pee yourself and then have a nervous breakdown, ripping out all your hair and cursing at the 8 year-olds in the front row. Well, while I put my hand down, think about this: if you want to practice until you’re perfect, why not just do the same SAT section over and over again until you get it perfect every time? Because that would be pointless. Practicing with the mindset of “practice makes perfect” isn’t necessarily wrong, but it could blind you to the real benefit of practice — being prepared. What you want is to expose yourself to as many different question types as possible so that come test day, nothing on the SAT will surprise you. What you want is to inoculate yourself against the pressures of a timed exam by taking timed practice tests. What you want is to be prepared for anything the SAT might throw at you so you can catch it, set it on fire, and throw it back in its face, cackling like a wild hyena being tickled by an feathered octopus…or whatever.
TIP #4: Take a Class…Somewhere
Everything you need to know for the SAT you learned in school. But everything you learned in school is a lot. The great big secret behind SAT prep isn’t necessarily teaching you even more stuff — it’s showing you which stuff you already know is the important stuff. Imagine for a moment that the SAT is an open-book test. How would you know what to bring? If you really wanted to cover all your bases, you’d want to bring every single textbook you’ve ever used in school, right? But that’s, like, a lot of stuff. A proper SAT prep program (wink, nudge) will help you toss out the books you don’t need and put sticky tabs on the important chapters so that you can quickly and easily refer to them for the test. Don’t drown yourself in a sea of irrelevant knowledge. That will only confuse you and slow you down on test day. You’ve got six weeks before your test. If you take a class now, you’ll finish a week before your test. On the big day, everything will be fresh in your mind, and you can face down that beast like a boss. Yeah, like a boss. Alternatively, if you don’t want to take a class or get a tutor, don’t forget that your favorite test prep center sells a solutions manual to College Board’s The Official SAT Study Guide (2nd Edition) to help you better understand every question!
TIP #5: Research
Do some research on the colleges to which you plan on applying, and find out what their policies are regarding score reports. Many schools like to help students out by using a “superscore,” which is the combination of all your highest scores on each section. If you know that your schools help you out like this, it can take some of the pressure off. On the other hand, if your school doesn’t take a superscore, keep in mind that the College Board now offers “Score Choice,” which allows you to choose which scores you want to send to colleges. Again, knowing this can take the pressure off a bit. You’re welcome.