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Simulate Real SAT Test Conditions

If you’re preparing for the SAT, there is no doubt that you will want to take a few full-length practice tests under real, timed conditions. This test is a marathon. When you’re training for one, don’t you want to do a least a few trial runs of the entire 26.2 miles? However, many students make the mistake of not simulating real testing conditions when taking their practice tests; they end up getting flustered, nervous, and  simply “psyched-out” on test day. To help you get over test-day jitters, here are a few tips and words of advice on how to make your practice as realistic as the real deal.

First, the stodgy security procedures and announcements can make you nervous by reminding you what a big deal this test is. Once you know what to expect, you can ignore all the formalities of the process and instead focus on doing your best on the actual test. Here are just some of the procedures that ETS follows on an SAT test administration:

• Student IDs and Admissions Tickets are checked upon entering the testing room and each time a student returns from a break;
• Students are assigned seats; they do not choose their own;
• Proctors will read instructions, rules, and guidelines before the test begins;
• The test begins on time, even if students are not all present; late students are not given make-up time if they show up late;
• Test materials, pencils, paper, and calculators must remain on the table at all times;
• Proctors may pace back and forth throughout the test to make sure students are not cheating.

For someone taking a standardized test for the first time, this can be a pretty intimidating environment. The important thing is to remain calm and focus on each question, one at a time. Your goal is to focus on the test, not on your environment.

Second, it’s important to simulate the real thing when you’re practicing. Far too many students simply take the test in homes full of distractions such as texting, Facebook (FB), and further interruptions. Here are some tips to help you simulate the real thing:

• Take the test at the same time and day of the week that the actual SAT is given. This means waking up on Saturday morning to take a practice test. Get used to the time so you know when you need to go to bed the previous night and how early you need to wake up and get your morning coffee to feel energized and ready;
• Get to a quiet, distraction-free area that “feels” like a testing classroom. The library or an empty classroom after school are perfect examples;
• Time yourself accurately and honestly. They won’t give you extra seconds on the real test, so don’t give yourself that luxury when you’re practicing. If you’re about to solve a problem when time runs out, you’ll just have to put your pencil down and move on;
• Time your breaks accurately to get a feel for when you have five minutes to recover. You get a break after every two sections, so make sure to take them when you’re practicing, too.

Once you do this a few times, you will have simulated some very realistic practice SAT tests and gotten a feel for the timing and mental stamina needed for the entire test. On a long test such as the SAT, you will be surprised at how much a role mental fatigue can play, especially toward the last few sections.

An additional way you can take some pressure off is to sign up for an SAT test early in your junior or even sophomore year. Almost all colleges look only at your highest SAT score anyway; some colleges even allow you to combine scores from sections of different SAT administrations to create a “superscore” of your highest section scores. The vast majority of SAT test-takers take the test at least twice, so there is nothing wrong with taking the real thing as a “practice run.” Then you’ll have some experience under your belt with the real thing and be better prepared for the next SAT.

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