The Student's Guide to the SAT

By Huntington Learning Center

The Student's Guide to the SAT

Getting stressed out before taking a big test such as the SAT is normal. Unfortunately, stress can be one of the biggest distractions from doing well on a test, no matter how many hours you've spent pouring over practice exams and brushing up on math equations. Not only can stress cause you to lose sleep and affect your attention, it can also make your time spent studying less effective.

Luckily, there are proven ways to minimize stress and maximize your performance. Here are a few ways to avoid anxiety, both during the study-heavy weeks leading up to the test and during the exam itself:

Do What You Need to Do to Stay Positive

Having a negative attitude toward a test you have to take isn't going to help your performance. Focusing on positive outcomes instead of negatives can be very motivating. Remind yourself that if you do well on the SAT, you might get into your dream school or receive good scholarships. At the very least, once the test is over, you can look forward to whatever your future holds. Yoga, meditation, listening to upbeat music, and exercising can all help boost your mood so that you're optimistic while studying, not stressed.

Don't Overwork Yourself

You may be tempted to pull all-nighters and avoid going out to dinner with the family so you can get in as much study time as possible, but this can be just as detrimental to your performance as not studying at all. Studying is important, but so is relaxation, so do your best to strike a balance. Make a schedule and set aside blocks of time dedicated to reviewing SAT prep materials and studying. Then, set aside some "you" time to enjoy fun activities and relax. 

Pay Attention to Eating and Sleeping

To keep your mind sharp, remain alert, and reduce stress, pay special attention to your diet and sleep schedules. Eat foods that are filling and full of proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats, and try to get a full eight hours of sleep per night in the days and weeks leading up to the test. This will help boost your energy levels and make your study time more efficient.

Take Practice Tests

Whether you're working with a tutor, taking a class, or preparing on your own, practice tests are an instrumental part of SAT preparation. Practice tests allow you to get comfortable with the types of questions you can expect to see, ensuring there are fewer surprises. Preparation and familiarity are keys to remaining calm during the test. 


During the test, you'll be given a few breaks. It's best to take advantage of these opportunities to get up and stretch. You may get antsy or sore from sitting down for long periods, and discomfort is distracting. Get the blood flowing during your breaks to perform as well as possible on the test!

So as you prepare for the SAT exam this year, remember that while stress is normal, with these effective strategies for stress management it doesn’t need to make or break your performance on the day of the test. If you’re interested in learning more about how to best minimize exam stress and prepare for the SAT, turn to a reputable SAT test preparation program to help boost both confidence and scores.


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