Panel of Experts

Karl Schellscheidt

SAT Prep Expert

  • BSE, Princeton University '90
  • M.A., Secondary Education Seton Hall University '93
  • J.D., University of Pennsylvania Law School '00

Fred Hargadon

Dean of Admission

  • Swarthmore College
  • Stanford University
  • Princeton University

Don Betterton

Financial Aid Expert

  • Director of Financial Aid, Princeton University (1973-2006)
  • Certified College Planner
  • Principal, Betterton College Planning

Seamus Malin

Admission Expert

  • Harvard University
    Dir. of Financial Aid
    Asst. Dean of Admission
    International Office Director

SAT Directions: Optimize Your Time on Test Day

Karl Schellscheidt

free sat test videoThe directions on the SAT are so important that you should know them inside and out before you arrive for the test. If you have to read the directions on test day, you are wasting valuable time. Learn what else you should know before the test day to help build your raw score.

SAT Directions (transcript)

The topic in particular right now is going to be the directions. There is not a whole lot to say about directions other than that when you go into the SAT, and they say, “You may now begin”, and you then have 25 minutes to complete 20 questions, you really should not be wasting your time reading the directions. That does not mean that the directions are not important, what it means is that you should really know what the directions are and what’s expected of you before you even walk into the test on test day.

My suggestion to students is this: before you get to SAT day, or before you even get to SAT preparation, you should go to your high school guidance office, the public library, or online, and get an SAT preparation booklet. You should look at a sample SAT test, and really take a moment or two to read the directions of each section. Look at the sample problems that they post for you to see exactly what you are supposed to do.

You should look at the formula block that comes before the math sections, and really know each one of the formulas very well before you go into the SAT. If you find yourself on a SAT test for example on the math, having to flip back and look at the different formulas on 30/60/90 triangles, 45/45/90 triangles, the Pythagorean theorem, stuff like that, it’s really a waste of time, and it’s only going to slow you down. Now obviously if you are doing the test and you have forgotten something, you should flip back in order to get the answer. You shouldn’t say, “Oh I can’t. I’m not allowed to do this, I need to keep moving.” No. You should definitely look back and get yourself the information you need. However, what I am saying is that you should really go in to the test knowing that stuff cold.

The other thing that I think you should do before you actually get to the SAT is walk through bubbling in your name and your school code, and the kind of information that they are going to ask you to fill in on test day. I think if you have sort of done that once, when you get there on test day, it’s not going to seem as weird and foreign, and you are not going to have this outer body experience of “This whole thing just seems weird to me.”. You are going to know exactly what to expect, what kind of information you need, “Do I need my social security number? Do I need to know my home address? Do I need to know my zip code?”, stuff like that. Figure it out before you get there, because if you don’t, you can get rattled before the test even starts. And you really want to minimize that opportunity.

Hopefully, if you take the time now to go and figure out what the directions are, to look at the math formula block, figure out what’s expected of you, and to maybe practice once filling in an answer sheet with your name and all the relevant information, I think you are going to have a much better experience on test day, and that will hopefully help you maximize your score.

Karl Schellscheidt
ePrep, Inc.

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