It’s been almost three years since I last worried about having a number two pencil, a calculator with fresh batteries, and a filling snack in my backpack.
The SAT was hard for me. I took two classes, owned multiple practice books and sat through the exam three times (not counting the same effort also being put towards the ACT). Yet, no matter how much I practiced, studied and sat through either one of these exams, I got horrible test anxiety every time. It was as if I would stare down at the first question and all of my preparation would flow out of my ears. Of course, then my heart would start racing, I would realize five minutes already went by…so my heart raced more… and finally I would calm myself down until another question stumped me causing the cycle to start over again.
Luckily, I am currently attending my dream college, but still I am ashamed of those four numbers. I just know that they do not reflect my intelligence, how much work I put in or my “college readiness.” However, despite how difficult the SAT was for me, it taught me how to study.
Yes, as a junior in high school I took many tests, but I never was forced to learn how to study for a test this big. It requires making a study schedule, finding a great spot, concentrating for long periods of time and knowing yourself and your study habits.
Therefore, while I am not proud of the number the SAT gave me, I am proud of the skills.
First of all, I realized that tests make me anxious. Unlike many of my friends, who feel stressed while studying for a test, I start to wig out while I am actually taking the test. I learned the solution that is best for me is to over-study for a test. Most people believe studying too much while actually hurt you as if there is a bell curve to studying and there is diminishing returns after a certain point. Yet, I found that when I know the material too well, I present it on the test like I know it just well enough. Usually, the anxiety will drop me a couple points, so I shoot for a 98 when I want a 92.
I also learned that I can’t work in complete silence. While I do not like being distracted while I am studying, plugging my headphones in while in a busy coffee shop is perfect. It doesn’t matter if I am doing dense reading or writing a long paper, silence makes me crazy. In fact, I have an app on my phone that plays coffee shop noises. I used the app when it was too cold to go outside, but my room was too quiet.
I am also not able to cram. If there is a test the next day, the idea of entering a test without knowing anything is petrifying. Therefore, I make a point of starting to studying for a test a week early. While I usually while only really study during the two days before the test, knowing that I have seen the material before makes me feel calmer.
During a test, I need to work backwards. Somehow working forward to back messes me up because I feel like I am behind the pace I should be. However, when I work backwards or out of order, I feel like I am more in control of budgeting my time. But, I always keep a watch with me while taking a test, so I can make sure I don’t lose track of my schedule. After a test, I refuse to discuss the test. I will actually start to freak out and lose sleep over certain questions if I compare with a friend. It’s that, “oh I know I failed,” feeling that I refuse to let myself feel. I had a friend that would always respond to a question about how he thinks he did on a test with, “I either passed or I failed.” By saying this he meant the test is now out of his hands and nothing can change whether or not he passed or failed.
Therefore, the SAT was a scarring experience for me, and many people have opinions on the test itself. Yet, despite the physical test, I support the idea of having a final exam esq. test that needs to be taken before college. Not because of the score, but because so many students get to cruise through high school without knowing if they are a visual learner or more auditory or whether or not they like studying in a library or a café. These are the skills that will help students when they have two final papers and four written finals in one week and need to be as time efficient as possible, and not just some set of numbers.