The night before a big standardized test is easily one of the most stressful times in any high school student’s academic career. After all, tests like the SAT and ACT will help determine where he or she will attend college. A lot is riding on these exams so its understandable why the pressure is high. I remember when I was a high school junior, some of my classmates would skip school the day before the SAT or ACT and sit in the local library studying all day. While this is definitely one method of preparation, I would not necessarily endorse it. Cramming like that only one day prior won’t actually do much. Instead I would recommend the following:
Only review what is necessary, and only for a short amount of time
Quite frankly, if you aren’t great at a certain topic (e.g. SAT math) the day before the exam, you won’t miraculously improve your score by 100 points by studying all day. Mastering the different sections of standardized exams takes a long time, so any improvement you do see will be marginal. Instead, review the sections you are bad at, but don’t make yourself crazy. Do a bit of review in the afternoon or early evening, and then put all review books down, and don’t touch them again until after the exam. Stressing over intense review will just make things worse.
Get a good night’s sleep
This cannot be stressed (pun intended) enough. Sleep helps improve memory and will make you feel more relaxed in the morning. And not only that, but you will generally feel better physically and mentally and be able to focus for longer periods of time. Wait until college to take a final exam on two hours of sleep (speaking from experience here…).
Have a carb-y dinner (and a protein-filled breakfast)
You can thank my AP Biology teacher for this next piece of advice. She told us that the night before her daughter has a soccer game, she makes pasta. Then, during her soccer game, her daughter is all fueled and ready to go. The reason for this is that carbohydrates release energy slower than other foods, so you won’t feel a difference until the next morning. This being said, don’t expect to feel too different. The energy you get will be something, but nothing incredibly substantial. As for breakfast the morning of, protein (e.g. eggs) provides energy in a much shorter period of time.
Find a way to relax
Obviously this is easier said than done, but do what helps you to stay calm – yoga, reading, watching a movie, whatever it is. Keeping your head clear is easily one of the most important things on this list (besides getting a good night’s sleep, of course). Getting your mind off of the point of stress, even for a little while, will do wonders for your sanity.
So, there you have it. Try not to go crazy and focus on the test too much. Remember – the test does hold weight in your college admissions decisions, but it’s not the only factor. You’re more than a number!