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(Note: I took the SATs back in September 2013, and my experience reflects the old format of the test, which is no longer being administered)

getting ready


Morning of:

RIIIIIINNNGGGGGG-*slams hand down on alarm clock button*

6:42? I can afford to doze for a bit more…

6:53!!! Time to get up. What to wear…should I grab a sweatshirt? It might be chilly with the AC on full blast, and I do like to be cozy. Eh, might as well bring it along just in case.

Oh goodie, mom made me some scrambled eggs and toast. Thankfully I’m actually hungry and want to eat something this morning; usually everything tastes like dry cardboard and all I can stomach is a few sips of water.

Pencils, pencil sharpener, calculator, driver’s permit (sigh, if I were on top of things like everyone else I’d have my license, but oh well), water bottle, and of course the most important thing, my bag of honey nut cheerios! *pulls drawstring bag closed*

The only thing worse than forgetting my ID or a pencil is having people think a thunderstorm is rolling in halfway through the test when my stomach decides to let me know it’s empty and ready for more food. My trusty cheerios have proven themselves many times over; there’s no other food I’d trust more to keep my stomach quiet.

Ok not bad; I should be at the school by 7:15, and we don’t have to be there til 7:30. See I can be on time after all! Granted, today IS a pretty important day…



Upon Arrival:

*walks into high school* Wow, it’s so strange to see so many people I don’t recognize walking my high school halls; this place is both familiar and all of a sudden unfamiliar. I don’t know how I feel about that.

I am glad that my school offers the SAT though; it’s much more convenient than driving another fifteen minutes to another school. Plus, sitting in a classroom I’ve already been in before will help ease my nerves a bit.

*Surreptitiously glancing at other people* Hm, do they look nervous? Well some are chatting and even laughing; seems like a walk in the park for them. I wonder if I look nervous. How prepared am I compared to these people? Heard we got a smart crop of students this year.

Ah yay the line’s moving! The sooner I can settle in, the better. *Hands teacher ID, teacher checks my name off and tells me room number* Nice, I’ve been in room 308 before. Wonder how many people I’ll recognize in my room?

*Enters room 308, scans the seats* PERFECT, a seat in the back row and corner; my ideal place to take a test. Now how should I arrange my belongings on my desk to maximize efficiency?

Oh look it’s Sofia! Glad I’ll have a friend here; I won’t have to wander the halls alone during breaks and whatnot (especially since each room takes breaks at different times; I have no idea what my other friends will be up to).




Preparing for the test:

Ahhh the booklets are being handed out. Wait. Oh my. This is real. It’s happening. Ok. We’re being told to bubble in our names and addresses. At least there’s one thing I can’t screw up on.

Yada yada yada, there’s the teacher reading all the standard nonsense that none of us are listening to. Can we just start already?

I wonder if that teacher even took the SATs back in her day. Given how laboriously I’ve pored over the SAT prep book for the past few months, I really don’t know much about the history of standardized testing. Whatever, that’s pretty irrelevant anyway. Wait did she just say we can start?

Ah yes, everyone else has opened their booklet; better get crackin’!





Taking the test:

Okay this prompt is doable. First things first, make a list of two or three examples and go from there. See I remember test taking strategies; I didn’t take that SAT prep class for nothing!

*scribbles for a while*

Okay one sentence intro, then onto discussing first example. Ain’t nobody got time for eloquent lead-ins, just get the info down and move on.


Un-be-LIEVABLE, that’s the third time this guy has sneezed in the past five minutes! Man, almost half the room either just turned around or glanced up to shoot him dirty looks. There are a few sympathetic onlookers, and others who are still miraculously concentrating on writing their essay. Props to them, I could learn a thing or two from them.

I’m sure being sick or having allergies or whatever it is he has must suck, but that doesn’t make it any less distracting. I need to do well on this test; I refuse to accept that my score may be ruined by someone who should have just taken a sick day.

Great, now he’s blowing his nose. At this point the noise is constant enough that it’s starting to blend into the background. Maybe I can tune it out for the rest of the next…four and a half hours. Oh geez.

Well, that about wraps up the writing section. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but I think I hit all the major points and will earn a solid score. On to math now!

*18 minutes later*

I’ve double checked my work, and still have seven minutes left. What do I do with myself? I guess I’ll double check my answers for a second time…or better yet, let me make sure all my bubbles are fully filled in. Oooh yes, I see a sliver that’s not fully colored; yes, much better now.

I wished I could start the reading section early; however much extra time I always have at the end of math sections would be so incredibly useful when I’m trying to answer comprehension questions.

Oh cool we’re about to move on to the next section. Vocab words, here I come!

Whew, starting off with something I know; the answer is clearly C, “magnanimous” (thank you 9th grade English class for making us read The Odyssey and memorizing big words). Next one…oh dear. What does “conjugal” mean? Is it like, describing the act of conjugating a verb? No, that wouldn’t make sense at all…but maybe that is what it means and I was just able to eliminate an answer? I’ll skip it for now and come back later (assuming I have time left…)

These reading passages are always a hit or miss. Sometimes they’re a fun little story and I wished there was more to read, and other times they reek of standardized testing writing, littered with literary devices and other contrivances. Either way though, the reading experience is ruined by those little numbers in parenthesis following certain sentences or words; they’re a constant reminder of the questions I have to look forward to.

Okay I have three minutes left; time to revisit the questions I skipped the first time around. I hate having to decide whether to leave questions blank or to make an educated guess. If I leave it blank and find out later that I would’ve chosen the right answer, I lose out on points. If I answer it wrong, I also lose out on points. I just can’t win.

With my luck, I’ll probably end up not answering all the questions I would’ve chosen the right answer for, and choose wrong answers for all the questions that I do end up answering. Hm. Well, I’m pretty confident in these two so I’m just gonna go for it…and I’ll leave this one blank because I could only eliminate one answer and a 1 in 3 chance of picking the right answer is not good enough odds for me.

Break time! Finally. My stomach’s been holding up pretty well so far; no signs of grumbling, and I plan to keep it that way. *Munches on some cheerios as I make my way down the hall* Wonder how my friends are doing…


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After the test:

My stomach held up remarkably well! (given how much I talk about my stomach you’d think I care more about that than the test, which is not quite true; I’d just like to avoid the immediate embarrassment of emitting unpleasant growling sounds in a silent room filled with my peers, some of which I’ll have to see in class next week). I am pretty hungry though; can’t wait to get home and see what’s for lunch.

I’m really surprised at how early it feels; it’s barely one in the afternoon, yet I feel like I’ve already accomplished a whole day’s worth of work. I guess that’s what happens when you wake up early on a weekend and use your brain nonstop for 4+ hours.

I shouldn’t downplay it though; taking that test was a huge burden that has now been lifted off my shoulders, and I can put it out of my mind (at least for a few weeks) and focus on classes in the meantime.

But, you know, it wouldn’t hurt to make sure I’ve marked down the date when scores will be released. 18 days from now? Got it. And I should also figure out what time. 6AM? Perfect. All right. And now the waiting begins.

June Xia

June is a junior at Cornell University studying biology. She attended public high school in the Philly suburbs, where she ate lots of water ice and hoagies. June enjoys watching TV, playing candy crush, and reading the New York Times. Writing poetry and knitting kept her sane during admissions season, plus a lot of chocolate and hugs; she made it out alive, and is all the more introspective and aware thanks to the experience.