Defeat Your Worst Enemy on the SAT

Defeat Your Worst Enemy on the SAT
You realize, of course, that your worst enemy is ... you (Photograph by Adrian Burke/Corbis)
Photograph by Adrian Burke/Corbis

This tip for improving your SAT score was provided by Millin Sekhon at Veritas Prep.

It’s no secret that when it comes to standardized testing, YOU are your biggest enemy. And who can blame you? Most people are not prepared to run a marathon—let alone at a sprinting pace—and the few who are have spent hours and hours practicing. The same goes for taking any standardized test, from the SAT to the MCAT. The ability to answer questions quickly and accurately under strict time constraints isn’t as much a test of scholastic ability as it is of stamina. Most students have learned everything they need to know for the SAT by the 10th grade, but there’s a reason so few students score 2400. Even the smartest students fall victim to lack of stamina during the SAT, and careless errors account for a majority of point deductions. Luckily, we have two small foolproof tips that can help you outsmart fatigue and stay focused come test day.

Eat Breakfast
It may seem like a basic piece of advice, but eating a good breakfast before the SAT is extremely important. Aim for a breakfast that will keep your brain working—in this case, sugar is a good thing. Your brain works solely off of glucose, and that means that no matter what you eat, your body first has to convert it to sugar before your brain can use it. For fast brain power, why not skip the conversion? You don’t have to eat a dozen donuts to wake up your brain; try a big glass of orange juice and a muffin, a cup of coffee with cream and sugar, or a bowl of cinnamon toast crunch with your eggs and toast. The last thing you want to worry about when you sit down for the test is your stomach growling. And to keep your brain going during the entire test, it’s always a good idea to bring a snack for your break time. A chewy granola bar, a bag of M&M’s, or your favorite fruit snacks can help keep you alert and end up making all the difference when you get down to those last few problems.

Mark Up Your Passages
Many students complain that the critical reading section of the SAT is the most difficult section, and a major reason for this is the “boring” factor. It can be easy to lose focus in a passage that doesn’t exactly pique your interest, especially if it is part of a later section and you forgot to pack a snack.

Marking up passages is a key way to remind yourself to read actively. Instead of reading the same line over and over again without absorbing the information, stay on task by picking apart the passage question by question. Draw brackets around specific lines for line-reference questions and paraphrase big-picture concepts in the margins. If you attack a passage as if you’re on a mission to get in, find the answers, and get out, you’ll be less likely to become distracted or bored. Circle key words, underline main ideas, and most importantly, always find textual evidence to support your answer choice. If you take this critical approach, you can get through even the most obscure passage at the end of the last critical reading section. And if you’ve already eaten a wholesome breakfast and are crunching the last bits of a Jolly Rancher, don’t sweat it—your worst enemy doesn’t stand a chance.

For more practice, take a full-length SAT practice test to sharpen your skills.

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