SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

13 Last Minute SAT Tips You Should Remember


You only have a couple days before the SAT (or maybe less than a day!), and you’re determined to ace this test! Whether you're looking for last-minute study tips, advice on how to prepare the day of the test, or test-taking strategies to maximize your scores, we've got you covered.

Here are a bunch of handy last minute SAT tips that will help you stay focused and raise your scores.


General Last Minute Studying Tips

Ideally, you'll want to start studying for the SAT long before your test day in order to be well prepared for the exam. However, last minute studying can also be useful for learning some final pieces of information and being fully prepared. If you're studying right before the SAT, you should spend your remaining time wisely. Follow these tips to ensure that the extra effort pays off!


Tip 1: Focus on Your Weak Spots

It’s tempting to just “study” by taking a bunch of practice tests, but that can only help your scores so much. Now is the time to drill down into your mistakes and analyze the reasons why you made them. 

Make sure you understand the route to the correct answer and why your answer choice was incorrect. Even if you just do this for one section, you should start to see major score improvements.


Tip 2: Be Time-Conscious

You don’t want to be taken by surprise when you hear “time’s up” on the SAT, and you haven’t gotten to all the questions. Don’t take a whole practice test, but do a few questions and experiment with estimating how much time you’re spending on each. This will help you get a sense of how long 30 seconds or a minute feels so you'll know when you need to skip questions on the real test.

On the Digital SAT, you have 71 seconds per question on the Reading and Writing section and 95 seconds for each Math question. That said, you want to have extra time to check everything at the end, so we generally recommend aiming to spend a minute per question on Reading and Writing and 90 seconds (1.5 minutes) on Math. If you linger too much, you won't have the chance to answer easy questions later in the section!


Day of the Test

Follow these tips on the morning of the SAT to ensure you start the test prepared and on the right foot.


Tip 3: Sleep Strategically

Go to bed early, and try to sleep at least seven hours the night before the test. Plan to wake up an hour earlier than you have to; if you just roll out of bed, you might still be sleepy when the test starts. You should be totally alert by the time you get to the test center.


Tip 4: Don’t Take the Test Hungry

Unless you’re one of those people who gets nauseous if you eat breakfast, you should try and eat before the test. Don’t eat too much (you don’t want to get sleepy again), but snack on something small and high in protein so your brain has something to work with, and visions of waffles don’t start dancing in your head during the test. Also, bring a couple of filling snacks that you can eat during breaks if you end up getting hungry again (nuts and granola bars are good).

As for whether you should drink coffee...that depends on the person. If you're already a coffee addict, then you're probably fine with drinking a cup or two before the SAT. Don’t drink it if you’re not used to it because the caffeine could make you anxious and less focused on the test. 


Tip 5: Dress for Success

You want to dress as comfortably as possible. Bring layers so you don’t get distracted by being too hot or too cold. You should also pack up everything you need for the test the night before to ensure that you don’t forget anything. Here's a list of what you should bring to the SAT in case you don't know:

  • Admission Ticket
  • Photo ID
  • Testing device (if you're bringing your own)
  • Calculator and/or watch (if you prefer to use a separate device)
  • Water and snacks 


Wear whatever is most comfortable for you. The testing room is a judgment-free zone. But you might want to take off the mascot head so that you have enough peripheral vision to see your answer sheet. 

During the Test

You'll want to be on your "A" game for the entire SAT. Follow these tips to get the best test-testing experience.


Tip 6: Don’t Freak Out

It’s much easier said than done - sometimes the more I try to get out of my own head the less successful I am. But really try and shut out anxious thoughts that arise during the test. Do a little mini mindfulness session where you focus on your breathing and nothing else for a couple of seconds. This will lower your blood pressure and clarify your thinking.

Remember, the most productive thing you can do right now is to keep on going even if some of the questions scare you. Don’t let yourself fall victim to the vicious cycle of anxiety -> lost focus -> less efficient test taking -> can’t finish sections -> MORE ANXIETY.


Tip 7: Skip It

If you come up against a difficult question, don’t spend a ton of time on it. Already spent 30 seconds looking at a question and don’t know how to answer it? Skip it. 

You can flag the questions you skip and come back to them at the end if you have extra time. If you let yourself get bogged down, you might not make it to future easier questions that could earn you more points. 


Tip 8: Always Guess

There's no penalty for wrong answers, so make sure to put something down for every question. Even if it's a completely random guess, there's a chance you'll get it right and earn the point.


Tip 9: Take the Break

Even if you don’t feel like it, take advantage of the break. Stepping away for a moment can help reduce your stress and remind you that there's a whole world that exists outside the testing room. Eat a snack, use the bathroom - you’ll probably feel much more refreshed and prepared to take on the rest of the test.


Tip 10: Check Your Answers!

Have a few minutes at the end of a section? I know you’re tired, but go back and check your answers. Dumb mistakes are frustrating, and usually they can be corrected if you just look over the questions again. You can also use this time to make sure you filled out the answer sheet correctly and didn’t accidentally skip a question and bubble in the wrong answers.


Tip 11: Use Everything the SAT Gives You, and Take Shortcuts

This applies to all sections of the SAT. If you think you couldn’t possibly figure out the answer to a question, make sure you exhaust all resources at your disposal before guessing (although as I said, you can skip it on your first pass through the section!). Remember that this isn’t like a normal test. No one cares if you show your work or use the “right” method to solve a problem, so take shortcuts to solutions if you can find them.

Here are some relevant things to keep in mind about each section:  


Reading and Writing

Don’t be intimidated by an unknown word. On the digital version of the SAT, you can almost always use context clues to approximate its definition.

Take reading passages at face value. If the answer isn’t DIRECTLY supported by what you read in the passage, don’t choose it. 

Remember that the SAT only tests certain writing concepts — you'll never see something totally new on the exam.  Study the grammar rules that are on the SAT, follow them, and don’t overthink it.



Sometimes math problems will give you a diagram of a shape, and you're supposed to find an area, angle measurement, or other dimension. Usually, the most logical answer based on what you see is correct. For example, if you're trying to find the measurement of a tiny-looking acute angle, you can rule out 80 degrees as an answer. 

Use the computing power of the calculator to its full advantage. If you come across questions about graphs of equations, use the graphing function. At the same time, don't overuse the calculator to the point where it's costing you more time. Be smart about when you need it and when it's faster to just do things the old-fashioned way. And if you haven’t already, review this list of formulas you should know for the SAT.

If you start to do something crazy and complicated for a math problem, you’re probably going down the wrong path! The SAT tests simple concepts that are sometimes presented in weird formats.

Above all, remember that multiple choice is a gift; the answer is right in front of you even if you don’t see it right away.



Oh boy, I hope it's Multiple Choice™!

After the Test

Even after you've finished the SAT there are still some important tips to keep in mind.


Tip 12: Be Aware: You Can Cancel Your Scores

If you're concerned about your scores because you know something went horribly wrong on the test, you are allowed to cancel them. You must submit your written request for cancelation to the College Board by midnight on the Wednesday after the test. For advice on whether you should cancel your scores and how to go about doing it, read this article.


Tip 13: Don't Get too Stressed

It's important to give yourself time to decompress and relax after the test! Try not to stress out too much about what may have gone wrong. It’s out of your hands now, and your time and energy are much better spent doing other things that you enjoy for the rest of the weekend.


What's Next?

Are you trying to decide whether to retake the SAT? This guide will help you make a decision. Then you can start planning when you'll register for the test again.

If you want to get a head start on studying for your next test date, check out these study plans for sophomores and juniors, rising seniors, and our complete plan for all students. You should also figure out your target score so you can plan accordingly.

Also, check out our guides for how to get an 800 on each section of the SAT to get more specific tips for raising your scores!



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Samantha Lindsay
About the Author

Samantha is a blog content writer for PrepScholar. Her goal is to help students adopt a less stressful view of standardized testing and other academic challenges through her articles. Samantha is also passionate about art and graduated with honors from Dartmouth College as a Studio Art major in 2014. In high school, she earned a 2400 on the SAT, 5's on all seven of her AP tests, and was named a National Merit Scholar.

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