Test-Taking: Sometimes Terrible Things Happen

I’ve been working with Revolution Prep for close to six years now, and I have heard some test-taking stories. Here are just a few of my favorites:

1) Students arrived at the testing location only to find the gates locked. There had been a miscommunication with the school, and the custodial staff was unaware that the test was being taken that day. Hundreds of students waited until 45 minutes after the test was supposed to start to begin the exam.

2) Everything was going according to plan, until the air conditioning unit broke and the heater mysteriously turned on. By the end of the test, the entire class was dripping with sweat, and half of the students were asleep.

3) The fire alarm went off during the test. The proctor told the students that it was clearly a drill, and urged them not to worry. While the rest of the school evacuated to the grass outside of the classroom, my student’s class continued taking the test.

4) One student had two deaths in the family and caught a nasty case of bronchitis, all in the five days leading up to the exam.

5) A student’s boyfriend broke up with her the week before the SAT. He then showed up the next morning to take the test in the same classroom, with his new girlfriend, who happened to be her best friend from elementary school.

These are real stories from real students who had real trouble focusing on their exams in the face of all of these distractions.

So how are you supposed to prepare for circumstances that are, by their very nature, impossible to prepare for?

You do nothing. Absolutely nothing.

You are not supposed to do anything, because there is nothing you can do. You have no control over what will happen in that room, so your best bet is to let go of expectations and prepare for the test — not the test-taking experience.

There is no box to check on your application if the room was too hot, or if you had the flu the day of the test. Why? Because schools don’t care. The only thing that colleges care about is your score.They are not at all interested in the circumstances surrounding how or why you got it.

So take your practice tests, review your class notes, get a great night’s sleep and eat a healthy breakfast. Listen to your SAT prep instructor, and make sure to do your homework. That is how you prepare. Not by panicking about potential disasters — because, let’s face it, the kind of disaster that is going to show itself halfway through the essay section is not going to be one you can prepare for.

It is important to focus on controlling the things you can control, and leaving the rest up to chance. If you are focused, prepared, and excited about your SAT, nothing can stand in your way.

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