Kevin A Doty Tutors Inc.
Tutor * Teacher * Rocket Scientist


Thoughts On Learning

10 things you should be doing to prepare for the SAT this week.


You (or someone you know) may be getting ready to take their first (or 2nd or 3rd?) standardized test this Saturday. You may have spent hours - even days - taking practice tests, going to classes and brushing up on content.

What you may not have thought about are other aspects of test taking that are just as critical but aren't normally covered in test prep classes or books.

To help you get ready for this Saturday, here are 10 things that you should consider and plan for this week to be your best for the test.

  1. Materials - What will you take to the test? Do you need batteries for your calculator? Where is your favorite pencil? Pack a bag NOW that has everything you need so that you can just grab it on Saturday morning. Even better, put it in front of the door so you literally have to move it to leave.
  2. Clothes - What will you wear to the test? It should be comfortable but still presentable. Your attire should match the seriousness with which you are taking the test. The better you look, the better you feel, which means the better you will perform. Lay out your clothes now so that you don’t have to decide Saturday morning.
  3. Morning Routine - What do you want Saturday morning to look like? Don’t just imagine it; literally get out some paper or your phone and specifically plan out the morning. What time do you have to get up? How long does it take to get to the test site? Do you need to stop anywhere along the way? Plan your whole morning and if possible do a run through of your scenario several times this week so that you can ensure there are no surprises Saturday morning.
  4. Sleep - Everyone needs differing amounts, but 8 hours is a solid average. This week, go to bed at a consistent time and set a good routine. But be careful, don't 'binge sleep' later this week and try to make up for your bad sleep habits in the past. When planning your wake up time for Saturday, estimate that you will need at least an hour after getting up to be fully awake for the test.
  5. Hydration - Your body is 60% water. You need it. Drink more of it.
  6. Eating - Eating well can have a profound impact on how well you think and feel. Be smart about what you’re putting into your body this week and thoughtful about the snacks you take with you into the exam. Be careful of too much sugar, and eliminate the crappy food. Instead emphasize proteins and complex carbohydrates.
  7. Caffeine - Caffeine is great; I adore my morning coffee. But too much can screw up your thought processes and make you jittery and irritable. Plus the crash coming down from your caffeine blitz will likely to happen halfway through the test and lead to a poor score.
  8. Exercise - This is not the week to start a new exercise routine. However, if you are currently on a regular regimen be sure to continue it. If not, going for walks, doing schoolwork while standing or being sure to at least walk to the fridge every hour can help keep things limber and improve how you feel so you can concentrate.
  9. Emotional - This is not the week to break up with your significant other or have a giant fight with your parents or get fired from your job. Sometimes these things just happen, but keep yourself in check as much as possible.
  10. Other personal aspects - There may be other aspects that are important you. Perhaps medications or conditions that would impact your ability to focus well for 4 hours or so. Make these part of your plan as well.

Bottom line: Monitor what you’re doing this week, and the things you can control. Your goal is to make the best use of the preparation you’ve already put in by being mindful about these other aspects of your performance.

Just like any athlete or artist preparing for an important event, planning for and deciding these aspects of preparation now means that none of these become issues that are taking up space in your brain which you can use to better think about the test.

Anything else that you do that has helped you get prepared for a test? Let me know in the comments below. I'd love to hear what's worked for you.

Best of luck on Saturday!


PS - If you find this article helpful, forward it to someone who could also use it. To get help on your next test or to find out more about my work go to

*A special thank you to my student Henry who helped edit a draft of this article.