Your SAT® list of DOs!
DO take advantage of the built-in safety net for the math test.
On that note, sometimes it seems like there are more formulas to study for the SAT than there are digits in pi. Thankfully, the College Board values actually knowing what to do with those formulas more than memorizing them, so they've thrown test-takers a major lifeline. On the first page of both math sections, there's a reference sheet with the most common formulas that appear on the test.
It's still important to be familiar with the formulas, though, if only to prevent paper cuts from flipping back and forth in the test booklet, but it's nice to have the reference sheet to fall back on if necessary. Check out the official practice test to see exactly which formulas are included.
DO eat a healthy breakfast.
Skip the magically delicious sugary cereal. It's not luck you need; it's protein. Even if you don't usually eat breakfast, your brain needs some fuel to do well on the exam. Eggs, cottage cheese, and yogurt are all good options—maybe not in the same bite, though.
DO turn off your cell phone for the entire exam (even breaks).
We can't stress this enough: Cell phones must be turned off.
Not on vibrate, not on silent, not on airplane mode: turn them off. Here's the official word from the College Board:
"If your device makes noise, or you are seen using it at any time, including during breaks, you may be dismissed immediately, your scores can be canceled, and the device may be confiscated and its contents inspected."
Yikes. Even if our Nana Shmoop sends a "good luck" text and we don't answer it, the sheer noise alone will cause all of this hard work to go to waste. Nana Shmoop can't bear that much guilt. Just turn your phone off, and wait to post a celebratory selfie after safely vacating the testing premises. #nailedit
DO check out the Common Prompt.
Those merciful SAT designers have made preparing for the Essay Exam easier than ever: they're giving out the prompt ahead of time. Now, don't get too excited. Nobody's shouting out the title of the source text from the rooftops or anything like that. However, regardless of what text you'll be asked to analyze on test day, the prompt will always say something like this:
"Write an essay in which you explain how [the author] builds an argument to persuade [his/her] audience that [author's claim]."
Those fun little brackets will be filled in with the author's name and claim, so there's no need to waste several anxious minutes trying to figure out what the writer's getting at. Take that pre-approved central claim and start analyzing!
DO make educated guesses.
This isn't the whateverth annual Hunger Games, so a wrong step won't unleash toxic gas or swarms of tracker jackers. With the switch to a correct-answers-only scoring system, an incorrect answer no longer counts against the total score, so the worst thing that can happen is missing the points for a particular question. There's no reason not to give every question a shot. Cross off any answers that are obviously wrong, then make your best guess.
DO watch the clock, but DON'T rush.
The SAT is notorious for throwing out choices that are almost right (but still wrong) among the answer options. For instance, on the Writing Test, a question stem might include two grammatical errors, and there may be a wrong answer choice that only corrects one of them. Take time to read each question carefully, and read all of the possible answers before deciding which is best. That said, if one question is taking up too much time, circle it in the test booklet and come back to it later.
If you have to, heed the advice in the above tip. May the odds be ever in your favor.
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