— A Day Before Your Test: What to Do —First of all, before we go any further, I need to say one thing: CONGRATULATIONS!
You’ve done an incredible amount of work, and I extend my biggest kudos! Most high school students aren’t driven, focused, or ambitious enough to complete an entire, rigorous study program. The fact that you have speaks volumes about your character and your willingness to succeed.
Note: if you have NOT studied for the SAT or ACT, do NOT take an official exam yet! This is a huge mistake. Taking these tests “cold” is never advised. These exams are built to trick and deceive students who haven’t prepared for them – you need to build up your material knowledge, your strategic capacity, and your experience. Take the time to prepare – I recommend my online test prep system, Green Test Prep – but at the very least, you should check out my free SAT Crash Course or ACT Crash Course before you walk into the testing center, and devote some time to preparing yourself.
Only read on if you’ve prepared for your SAT or ACT! All the material below is assuming that you have.
By this point, you now:
A) Know exactly what the test is like. There will be NO surprises on your actual SAT/ACT. You already know everything that you’ll be asked. You know how the sections will be structured. You know how long each section takes you, what material is tested, and which problems you find easy and hard.
B) Have the experience necessary to sit through this entire thing. Most high school students are terrified of the SAT and ACT for one main reason: they can’t stand the thought of sitting still for four hours and taking a test. But you’ve already done it, and it’s not that big of a deal, for crying out loud! You have testing endurance, and you can take that to the bank.
C) Have more practice under your belt than 95% of the students you’re competing against. This test is all about competition – colleges use it to scale your ability to take the SAT and ACT vs. other students’ abilities to take the SAT and ACT. How many students do you think have put 60+ hours into their test prep in the months leading up to it? Very, very few.
D) Know THE most important strategies and tactics necessary to rock this thing. I’ve been perfecting my system over the course of more than 13,000 hours of tutoring with over 430 one-on-one students. Of all the tricks, tips, strategies, and tactics I teach them, you have THE best set. No one else on the planet aside from my students and the users of Green Test Prep have close to the level of strategic and tactical knowledge that you do.
If you’re not already jazzed up, you should be. If you’re taking the test tomorrow, you should be excited. There’s nothing to be nervous about – you’re well-prepared! It’s natural to feel anxious before a big test, but I prefer to feel pumped up instead.
That’s why today (the day before your test) should be devoted solely to enhancing your body, your mind, and your level of pumped-up-ness.
A Day of Celebration
I know you’re not finished with the test yet, but that doesn’t mean that it’s too early to celebrate! Keep this in mind: your brain is always most capable when it is relaxed and happy. If you spend today relaxing and getting happy, you’ll end up getting an even better score on your test than you would if you spent today practicing.
Furthermore, your brain NEEDS to let all the information you’ve studied “settle” – If you’ve been using my system, then I’ve been working you extra hard over the last couple of days, so now it’s time to let it all sink in.
With that in mind, I want you to take it easy and relax today. That’s your main goal.
Here are the only required activities I want you to work on:
1. Be sure to read the rest of this guide and make all the necessary preparations for tomorrow with your family. These lessons are full of tips on how to fuel your body, rest your mind and set yourself up for the highest scores possible. After all the work you’ve done, you want to optimize your performance by as much as you possibly can. These lessons will supercharge your SAT/ACT performance and get you rip-roaring for test day.
2. Spend at least 45 minutes reading fiction. It doesn’t matter which work of fiction you choose, and it should be easy. Pick something like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games. Countless studies have shown that reading fiction is one of THE best ways to consolidate your memories and lower stress.
Grab a novel that you’ve been meaning to read, or even a comic book, and spend 45 minutes plowing through it.
3. Go for an hour+ long walk. If possible, listen to 60bpm music while doing so. You’ll be sitting for a long period of time tomorrow – therefore, it’s essential that you get your blood flowing and keep your cardiovascular system limber and primed.
Almost nothing is more relaxing to your body than a long bout of low-intensity physical exercise. If you couple this activity with 60bpm music, you’ll enhance the relaxing and brain-enhancing effects even further. Use the Pandora app on your phone and listen to Bach Radio, or download the MP3 from this incredible YouTube video and put it in your phone/mp3 player: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYwqKKc1VCQ
If you want to, you can listen to anything that you find relaxing – but there’s a lot of science behind the 60bpm movement, so I’d definitely check it out if you’re not totally opposed to classical music!
4. Eat a ton of absolutely delicious food. Keep it healthy, but treat yourself. Load up on fruits, veggies, proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. “Carbo-load” your body and fuel your brain for tomorrow’s expedition. You should aim for 1.25 to 1.5X the amount of calories you usually eat.
Nothing releases more positive brain chemicals than eating a lot of tasty food. Of course, for obvious reasons, you can’t eat like this on a regular basis, but today – go for it.
5. Imagine yourself crushing the test. I know this might seem kind of silly, but positive visualization works. The world’s best performers – olympic athletes, Fortune 500 CEOs, chess masters, and tons of other high-achieving folks use positive visualization to enhance their future performance.
Here’s how it works:
A) Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit down with your eyes closed for 15 minutes.
B) Put on some 60bpm music.
C) Set a timer for 15 minutes so that you’ll know when you’re finished. I want you to devote 15 minutes to this exercise without worrying about timing. When the 15 minutes is up, you’re done – but don’t stop until that point.
D) For the entire 15 minutes, imagine yourself going through the ENTIRE process of taking the SAT/ACT in an INCREDIBLY positive fashion. I mean the entire process, from waking up in the morning to driving to the testing center to sitting down at your desk to taking breaks to writing your essay to finishing up your last question to checking your bubbling to walking out the door and letting out a big loud cheer.
Imagine yourself waking up well-rested. Imagine yourself eating a big, delicious breakfast with a smile on your face. Imagine yourself driving to the testing center excited and ready to put this test behind you, fully aware that you are about to CRUSH it.
Imagine your nervous friend chattering about while you coolly, calmly sit, listening to 60bpm music and “warming up” for the exam. Imagine filling your name into the bubbles with a big smile on your face – that’s a name that’s gonna get a seriously high score.
If this seems silly, I don’t care – DO IT. I want you to do this at least once today, and twice if you have the time. Go through the ENTIRE process of taking your test. Imagine it all going incredibly well. Pump yourself up. You ARE well-prepared, and you DO know all the best strategies, so you WILL rock this thing.
The more vivid this process is in your mind, the better. Imagine the feeling of the pencil in your hand, the comfortable clothes you’re going to be wearing, and the sound of crinkling paper as you turn the page to tackle another 10 math problems (after breezing through the first 10).
Positive visualization is extremely relaxing, but there’s an even bigger benefit than simple relaxation: by using positive visualization, you will actually prime your brain to perform better. When you’ve already seen yourself crushing the exam in your mind, you’ll feel comfortable and confident taking the exam during the real deal. I don’t have a long beard and a ponytail – I’m not some crazy hippy. I’m all about science, and this stuff works!
What if you feel like you NEED to study?
Today should really be about chilling. Do as many mindless activities as possible to keep yourself busy and happy. Watch some Netflix, play a videogame with your brother, read a stupid magazine, practice guitar, talk to your friends on the phone – whatever keeps you busy and happy and NOT focused on the SAT or ACT. Again: today is about treating yourself and hanging out.
However, if you feel like absolutely have to do something, and the fact that you’re not doing something is making you anxious, then you can do 10-minute (maximum) spurts of the following:
1. Vocabulary drills.
2. Re-solving old problems from scratch from your old flashcards.
3. Work through 1/4th of a practice section of your weakest area. Ideally, a practice section you’ve already done before. Retrace your steps.
Absolutely NO new problems and absolutely NO new attempts at learning novel material. You are trying to relax today. Keeping your mind limber is one thing, but trying to tackle entire practice sections is another thing entirely. Focus on stuff you’ve already done, which will BOOST your confidence. More importantly, since your flashcards are composed of only the stuff you need to focus on, you’ll be sure to spend your time as efficiently as possible.
However, AGAIN: don’t do this unless you really feel like you have to. There’s nothing you’re going to learn today that’s going to make a big difference in your score, but relaxing can make HUGE difference in your score. That’s why today is about relaxing. There’s a big trade-off you need to understand: is there a chance that you might pick up some random fact, figure, or concept today that’ll let you get an extra question or two right? Maybe. But your entire mental framework will be improved by simply relaxing, which will lead to faster, smoother, more accurate performance on all your questions, which will improve your chances of getting every problem right!
So kick back, relax, and take it easy. I am prescribing that you do so. Letting yourself chill today is essential. Your work is done.
All you need to do now is follow the directions in the next section and you’ll be all set leading up to test day….