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Rachel Kapelke-Dale

How to Simulate SAT Test Day

When students ask me what the single most important thing they can do before taking their SAT on test day is, I immediately know what to say: take a practice test. UNDER TEST-LIKE CONDITIONS!

Sure, it’s all well and good to study for the SAT for a few minutes on the bus, or in the doctor’s waiting room. But if you really want to reap the benefits of taking a practice test—namely, getting a realistic sense of what your score might be at this moment, and preparing yourself for the experience of sitting through a 3+ hour exam—you really need to do at least one test in test-like conditions.

So what are those conditions, you might ask? I’m so glad you did.


Silence, my friends. Silence. If you can’t get it at home (and a sign on your door will do this in most cases, though you may have to put in a special request to particularly loquacious family members), then see if you can get an empty classroom, a corner of the library, or some other quiet space for 3-4 hours (4 if you’re doing the essay) on a weekend morning. Because…

Weekend Mornings

They’re key. If it’s spring or summer break, that’ll work too. You want to see what your responses are like at the same time of day you’ll be taking the test—7:45 AM (the test will start closer to 8:30, but you’ll have to be there by 7:45). You’ll also want to make sure you have…

Test-Like Materials

Make sure that the materials you’re using—e.g. that practice test you’re about to take—are up to snuff. There are some great freebies here, but you know you can always turn to Magoosh when you run out! Rita will tell you the other materials that you’ll need here. Which brings me to my next point: what good is a test without…


Let’s face it—we’re not really used to using pencils except on multiple-choice tests. When we do, most of us prefer mechanical pencils. But you can’t use a mechanical pencil on the exam! Your answer sheet won’t go through the scanner right and you’ll end up with a 400 for submitting a blank test—not good. Even if Number 2 pencils are your nemeses (they are mine), make friends for this four-hour period. Except, of course, during…


SO many students will want to skip this all-important part of the practice test. Why is that? Well, wouldn’t YOU want to finish up early? The problem is, you won’t be able to skip them on test day. You’ll get two breaks overall (more on this here) and they contribute to the overall time of the test—you won’t be able to go on to the next section until break is over, so get used to the length of the exam, breaks and all, now. And finally…


You won’t be able to bring your phone into the exam, so get used to wearing a wristwatch, looking at a big clock on the wall (if you’re lucky), and getting the feel of how long each section is, even without a timepiece. You don’t want to waste that precious time trying to figure out how many minutes you have left!

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About Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Rachel is a TOEFL and SAT/ACT blogger at Magoosh. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University, an MA from the Université de Paris VII, and is currently a doctoral candidate at University College London. She has taught the TOEFL for six years, and worked with nearly 1,000 students in that time. Currently, Rachel divides her time between the US and London. When she’s not teaching or studying, she’s either riding (horses), or writing (fiction), a pair of activities that sound so similar that it confuses even native English speakers. Follow Rachel on Twitter, or learn more about her writing here!

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