Niche Resources

How To Test Better: Hacks From a 1590 SAT Tester

A student at a desk taking a test.

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

Big tests can be incredibly stressful! From AP exams to SATs to ACTs, students often experience testing day anxiety. I know I did, so here are a few tricks that helped me feel more confident the day of testing: 

  1. A good night’s sleep! You may think staying up late or rising before the sun to cram for your test will help you get that information in, but trust me when I say you should take all the sleep you can get the night before your test! You’ve done all you can; now it’s time to give your mind the energy and rest it needs to perform at full function. 
  2. Don’t try to learn anything new the day of the test. Make sure you schedule your test prep so that all introduction of new concepts is done beforehand. The only studying (if any) you should do before walking into that venue is reviewing concepts or ideas you haven’t fully memorized. Don’t stress yourself out trying to pick up something new in a rush. 
  3. If you’re afraid of forgetting something, review it right before and then write it down somewhere once you have the test. Sometimes hanging onto large pieces of information is hard and struggling to remember them may just increase your anxiety. I recommend running over these pieces (such as important revolution dates for an APUSH exam) right before you go into testing and then writing them down on scratch paper once you are in the test. Capitalize on your short-term memory and get it down on paper so you don’t have to worry about that piece of information in case you need it. 
  4. Review multiple times over the days coming up to testing, continually condensing what you don’t understand or remember and honing in on that. I like to review old notes and prep books to write down everything I’m not comfortable with in a notebook. I then review these new notes, seeing what I am more familiar with the second time around and repeating the writing process. Hopefully when you’re going over the new set of notes, you gained some knowledge while writing it down and end up noting less. Repeat this process over a week, gradually narrowing down the concepts you’re struggling with with each round of notes. With consistency and time, you’ll have every concept down. You also don’t end up wasting time reviewing the concepts you already know!
  5. Keep in mind that the process of elimination means that if there is even one word that seems wrong or off in the answer, you should throw away the whole option. This was an especially useful rule for me while taking the English sections of the SAT and the AP English exams.
  6. Don’t run a mental calculus or worry about figuring out your curve while you’re taking the test. I know test-taking can be a nerve-wracking experience but your only focus the entirety of the test should be getting to the next question and doing your best on each. Do not waste a single second tallying up the questions you did or did not feel comfortable on.
  7. Make a little pencil mark on the testing sheet next to hard questions and come back with fresh eyes rather than wasting time. If you’re taking a timed test and you have spent more than two minutes on a multiple choice problem that does not require solving processes, put something down and move on. It’s better you get through all of the easy questions that can help you score rather than deliberating on a single hard one and missing out.
  8. Go in order! Sometimes later questions may give you the answers for the earlier ones. This also reduces the chance of accidentally missing questions.

Remember: everyone tests differently. You are just as capable as everyone in the room and you are prepared; confidence is the last step to nailing an exam.

5 Ways To Increase Your SAT Score