We know Halloween is coming up, but we’re not trying to spook you! It’s natural to feel stress around important events like the SAT, but you can take steps to minimize your anxiety by thinking ahead to some of the worst-case scenarios and formulating a battle plan. No school hopes for a fire, but every school holds a fire drill. So brace yourself, and take a look at some of the scariest things that can happen on test day… and how to work through them.
1. You feel sick the night before the test or worse, during the test
You’ve studied diligently for months and it’s the night before the test, and that itch in your throat is now a painful lump. Or, you’re midway through a Reading section and your stomach sounds like Ms. Bean in Scream Queens. Only you can decide whether you are legitimately sick or just jittery, but just in case, familiarize yourself with the process of rescheduling your test, or cancelling your score immediately after the test, or in the few days post-exam. When should you cancel a test you’ve already taken? If you are seriously ill and believe this affected your performance, cancel. But remember that few people feel tremendous immediately following the test, so don’t let fatigue or residual nervousness cloud your judgment.
2. You’re running late for the test start time
Your phone updated overnight and your alarm didn’t go off, or you spilled a plateful of breakfast on your clothes, or ran into traffic… You didn’t mean to be late, but you will be. The good news? Testing actually starts between 15-30 minutes after the stated time, so you may have a buffer zone. The bad news? If students have already started writing, you will not be allowed to sit for the test and you’ll have to reschedule. The best way to avoid this panic-inducing scenario is to set backup alarms, have a buddy system, and have several people know you have to awake and somewhere at a specific time. Plan your route to and from the testing center so you know to avoid road delays.
3. You forget your ID, admission ticket, calculator, or pencils and eraser
The good news first — if you look sad enough, someone may hook you up with pencils and a chunk of eraser from their stash. The proctors in the room may also have pencils available. If you’re fantastic at mental math, you could ostensibly get away without having a calculator. If you find a charitable soul with an extra calculator that you can borrow, know that you pretty much have to like every one of their Instagrams for life now. The ID and admission ticket are another story — you must have them to be admitted, and they must match exactly. If you arrived very early to the test center, you may be able to go home and come back, or have someone bring these items to you. If not, you’re going to have to reschedule your test. Avoid this by printing off the test day checklist and going through it the night before and the morning of the test.
4. Someone in the room has an incessant cough, the sniffles, or a pencil tapping habit
Let’s get this out of the way, you can’t Lord of the Flies this person during the break. What you can do is acknowledge the distraction, allow yourself to rage on the inside for a moment, and move on. The best way to deal with this is in your preparation — don’t practice in perfect silence, because you’ll never have those conditions on test day. Practice with ambient background noise, someplace mostly quiet, but not vacuum-sealed, so that minor distractions don’t phase you.
Do you have a test-taking horror story to share with us? What happened and how did you deal?