Everyone does these. Everyone except you, that is! Most test-takers make these mistakes on the SAT, look back on them, think about them, learn, try again, and finally get things right. That’s them. You, however, will know in advance what not to do.

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You Won’t Forget Your Wristwatch

Who wears a watch these days? Well, you do if you want that scholarship. You have to manage your time. You need to know when you’re halfway through, have 10 minutes to go, or at what point you are in each test. And don’t forget about your breaks! You can’t be late coming back to your seat.

Students who practice with a wristwatch tell me that they feel so much more in control of the experience. There’s no panic that the time will suddenly run out, and that’s just in practice! Try it on the real thing.

Note that your wristwatch has to be simple. It can’t have smart functionality, which means it can’t read your biorhythms, and it especially can’t connect to your phone. Also: If your watch beeps during the exam, the proctors will take it. So, if you don’t have anything that simple, go online or to the store and buy one! The cheaper the better.

You Won’t Bubble Everything at the End

Too many students are in the habit of circling the correct answers in the exam booklet and then quickly bubbling all 52 or so answers at the end of the hour. What could possibly go wrong? I had one student tell me that on his actual exam, when he reached Question 52 on the booklet, he was only on number 51 on the answer sheet! Oops. Then the time ran out.

You, however, won’t miss half the questions — and blow 300 points — from a silly mistake like this. Get used to bubbling as you go. Make this a part of your practice!

You Won’t Let Your Calculator Batteries Die

If your calculator plugs in to charge, be sure it’s plugged in the night before, and don’t forget to pack it. If your calculator swaps batteries, put fresh ones in the night before and test them out. Even new batteries can be duds.

You Won’t Run Out of Steam

The SAT tests your stamina as much as anything else. Most students can’t maintain these levels of concentration for four or five straight hours, so they burn out halfway through. Students have told me that by the third hour of a practice exam, they’re just bubbling C, C, C. Obviously, this isn’t an effective strategy — but at least it’s on a practice test.

Like preparing for a marathon, preparing for the long SAT is a slow process to build yourself up. Practice for a few hours at a time and stop when you get tired. Do this a few times, and eventually you’ll go the full distance without fail.

You Won’t Forget Snacks and Water

Pack some water bottles and snacks to keep in a locker for your breaks. Water is best — not soda or juice — and the snacks shouldn’t be too sugary. Nutrition bars or sandwiches are good, as long as they don’t have to go in the fridge. Your breaks are short, and you won’t have time to buy something or wait in line for drinking fountain water.

You Won’t Work the Reading Test Straight On

The Reading Test, in particular, is arranged in the worst way for you to do well. It starts with the Literature passage, which takes the most time, and most passages have the main idea and inference questions early, with the line-number and detail questions last. If you work the Reading Test straight on, you run out of time about halfway through — and you wear yourself out!

Don’t fall for this trap. Instead, take control. Work the passages and questions in an order that lets you get the most questions right! Save the Literature passage for last, even though the SAT hands it to you first. For each passage, go straight to the line-number and detail questions (where the line number is in the question, not in the answer choices — those are different). Then, read the passage and answer the inference and main idea questions. Finally, go back to the Literature passage, where you may get stuck, but by then it doesn’t matter because you’ve already finished the other passages.

Be sure to practice this out-of-order strategy ahead of time so it’s smooth on test day.

You Won’t Rush through the Questions

Some students think that they need to rush through the questions to make the time limit. This is true, if you want to get them all wrong by missing key details and making careless mistakes. I’d rather you get half the questions right and run out of time for the other half than miss them all by rushing through them. But that won’t happen anyway: The SAT gives you enough time to answer all of the questions correctly and calmly — if you don’t get stuck.

Remember the Other Golden Rule: The secret to working fast and getting the answers right isn’t rushing — it’s knowing what you’re doing. The way you know what you’re doing is by learning what’s on the exam and practicing it.

You Won’t Get Stuck on a Question

You get roughly one minute per multiple-choice question. Imagine this: You encounter a tricky question that takes you five minutes, but you get it right! Yes! Then you run out of time before getting to the last four questions. So, who won: you or that tricky question? Probably that question.

Don’t let this happen. Instead, after about a minute, move on. Bubble a guess on your answer sheet, circle the question in your test booklet, fold the corner of the booklet page, and move on. You can come back to it later, or if you don’t get the chance to, at least you took a guess. This way you don’t miss out on questions at the end.

You Definitely Won’t Choke on the Essay

Choking, by definition (on the SAT), means getting stuck on something and becoming so flustered that you can’t focus. This can happen at any point on the test, but because you know better than to get stuck on a question, you’re unlikely to choke on one.

The essay, however, is another story. On the SAT, you have to write an introspective essay within 50 minutes, after a four-hour cognitive marathon. What’s worse, you know that schools can see your essay, so no pressure there!

Like any skill, writing the essay takes practice, and you don’t want to be at the start of the learning curve on test day. This way, writer’s block — and choking — is something that happens to other students, but not you.

You Won’t Change Your Morning Routine

The SAT is stressful enough. The last thing you need is to add more anxiety to the whole nerve-racking experience by changing your morning routine. If you normally have one glass of juice, should you have an extra glass for more vitamins or only half a glass so you don’t have to get up? Should you have eggs for more protein or just toast to avoid the food crash? Here’s a suggestion. Do what you normally do. It works every other day, and it’ll work today. Don’t change your routine.

If you’re tempted to try an energy drink or something unusual for an enhanced test-taking experience, try it first on a practice test! Make sure this new mix doesn’t upset your stomach or give you a headache. You don’t need that distraction.

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