Studying for the SAT is serious business. Colleges and universities will judge your college readiness on these scores (among other factors). If you are not properly prepared, then you may not get into the school that you want. The best way to prepare for exam day is to accurately and effectively simulate an SAT test environment.
Read on to find out:
- how to mimic SAT testing conditions in your home
- materials you’ll need to simulate a test environment
- extra tips for studying and taking SAT practice tests in general
Once you get used to the time-sensitive testing conditions you’ll face in the real exam room, you’ll probably feel much more calm and confident when you actually sit down to test.
Set up a quiet, well-lit testing area to recreate the SAT test environment.
Find an area in your home that is quiet and well-lit. Don’t make it too comfy. Think high school classroom – bright lights, silent, straight-backed chair and desk.
Let everyone in your household know that you need absolute silence while you are testing. You can even hang a note on the door to remind them.
If you have an extremely loud home, get a room at the library, or ask one of your teachers to “borrow” a classroom after school (COVID restrictions permitting, of course.)
Remove all distractions from your SAT test environment.
When you’re studying for any exam, you’re probably tempted to:
- check your phone
- play music (unfortunately, not even soothing music is allowed while you test)
- look up answers to questions you’re not sure about
- snack while you work
- take (very) frequent breaks to scroll on your phone, look in the fridge, talk to your friends, etc.
However, you can’t do any of those things during the exam.
Get used to not having these distractions on test day by removing them completely from your SAT test environment.
Practice using old exams to become familiar with the test format.
The SAT is designed to trick you on purpose. Using language and question formats that you are not immediately familiar with is meant to test whether you can parse out concepts in the moment.
The test format is foreign to you now, but by exam day, you can be very familiar with it.
Use these old (free) SAT exams to practice in your SAT test environment.
For the most part, previous years’ test questions and answers are formulated exactly as you would see them on the test.
Take an entire practice test in your SAT test environment.
During the week, you might not have time to sit down and do an entire SAT practice test.
But you won’t be able to take long breaks and recuperate on exam day.
So make a plan to regularly do an entire practice exam. You’ll learn:
- how to pace yourself during the actual exam
- which sections take you the longest (which is an indicator of which concepts you need to focus on)
- how to build up your stamina so that you’re ready to sit in a room and test for several hours
There are strategies to help you pick up the pace without learning any new English or Math skills.
For example, do the “easy questions” in the section first.
Just note that what’s easy for you might be difficult to someone else.
Mimicking a real exam environment will tell you what you’re good at when the pressure is on.
Try to relax. It's hard, we know.
You can study for weeks, take loads of practice tests, get a test-prep tutor, or even do an entire SAT prep course – none of it matters if you freeze up during the test.
This is all to say that the most important part of simulating the real SAT is learning how to relax.
There are several ways to minimize test anxiety, including:
- identifying coping skills you can use before the exam; for example, listening to music or deep breathing
- practicing positive self-talk; for example, remind yourself of the fact that you studied hard and are therefore prepared for the exam
- reframing your negative thoughts, such as “I am definitely going to fail,” into something more positive like “I have prepared the best I can. With the knowledge I have, I can do well.”
Remember, you can take the SAT as many times as you want until you earn the score you need to get into your target schools.