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Lucas Fink

The 5 Worst Things that Can Happen During Your SAT

Hey, who doesn’t enjoy revelling in a little bit of horror every now and then? Disasters, or even just near disasters are mesmerizing…

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So here’s a relatively productive way (*shudder*) to run through all your worst nightmares…well, your worst nightmares for your SAT, as least. We’re not going to delve into the dreams this gives you.

(By the way, I say “productive” because the goal here is to realize that you want to avoid the things below, when possible. If you can avoid it, and you don’t, then don’t come crying to me about it.)

1. Being Late

When I took my first SAT, I got a speeding ticket on the way there. I guess you could say I was lucky for A) having a driver’s license and B) being allowed to borrow my mom’s minivan, and I would have to say yes, I was (even though a minivan isn’t exactly the sexiest thing to drive)—but I was also dumb. The speeding ticket wasn’t from bad luck; it was from carelessness. I left home too late, and I realized just as I was leaving that I might not make it in time. And if you show up late? Tough luck: you’re not allowed in to take the test.

They make it pretty hard to show up that late, though. Usually, testing will start a solid 15-30 minutes after the time you’re told it will. But don’t play with fire. Show up a bit early so you can chat with friends and relax.

2. Being Accused of Cheating

There is almost nothing worse that can happen. If the person overseeing your test thinks you’re cheating, you’re out of the building—that’s that. Your test is cancelled, your time is wasted, and if they actually have proof that you were trying to break their confidentiality agreement, you could even be going to court.

Keep your eyes on your test, don’t reach into your bag during a section, don’t pull a piece of paper out of your pocket, and, simply put, don’t do anything that seems suspicious.

3. Getting Sick

Pop quiz!

Q: What’s worse than pop quizzes?

A: 4-hour tests.

Q: What’s worse than a 4-hour test?

A: Throwing up on your test 3 hours into it.

There’s not much to learn here other than to try to stay well-rested, well-fed, and in good spirits in the week before your SAT. If you get sick when worn down, you get much sicker than you do when in top shape.

4. Your Phone Ringing

You know how I said there was “almost nothing worse” than getting accused of cheating? Well, this one can be potentially worse. Technically, no phones are allowed in the room during the SAT. In practice, this usually just means it has to be in your bag, turned off, under the desk.

But if your phone does go off, and if they suspect anything fishy, you not only get kicked out and have your scores cancelled, but also get your phone confiscated so they can search it for damning evidence. Nine times out of ten, a proctor wouldn’t go that far, but there’s no point in taking the chance.

5. Bubbling Answers Wrong

One minute left! You’re working on the last question in the section. It’s hard, but you’re about to take your best guess, and as you bubble it, you realize you’ve made a huge mistake. It should be question 20, and you’re about to bubble number 19. There’s one missing because you skipped question 5 and didn’t fill in a guess.


…aaaand time’s up. Too late.

This is the saddest way for a test to go wrong. You put in all the time, all the effort, and you answer questions correctly, but you get no credit for it.

The easiest way to avoid it? Bubble in an answer to every question, even if you’re not certain. You get punished for wrong answers, but it evens out with those occasional lucky guesses.

Runners Up

Just in case all the above didn’t quite do it for you, there are plenty of other things that can cause little problems on test day. These are mostly pretty easy to solve, though:

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…we agreed that this post was supposed to give you nightmares, right?


About Lucas Fink

Lucas is the teacher behind Magoosh TOEFL. He’s been teaching TOEFL preparation and more general English since 2009, and the SAT since 2008. Between his time at Bard College and teaching abroad, he has studied Japanese, Czech, and Korean. None of them come in handy, nowadays.

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