A Harvard grad with a perfect SAT score explains how to ace the test

HarvardGetty ImagesA Harvard University graduate gives last-minute strategies for students to boost their SAT scores.

The SAT is one of the most high-stakes standardised tests high-school students can take. A high score can certainly go a long way in securing a seat at a top college.

To learn about last-minute strategies for students to boost their SAT scores, Business Insider talked to Chris Ryan, an SAT instructor who got a perfect score on the SAT, attended Harvard University, and is now Vice President of Manhattan Prep.

Ryan’s first piece of advice, interestingly enough, came from the lyrics in a British punk rock song.

“It’s like the old Clash song ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go,'” Ryan told Business Insider.

In other words: Are you going to stick with this question and tough it out, or move on?

Test-takers must understand their strengths and weaknesses and leverage that information to decide which problems to spend time on and which ones to pass up.

To do this, Ryan suggests practicing what he calls “30 second starters.” You set a stop watch to count down 30 second intervals and you start different practice questions. This exercise gives students a good idea of which questions come easily and which ones they struggle on.

“Get the points that are layups for you,” Ryan said. He also stressed that students shouldn’t be scared of skipping the questions they immediately recognise they will struggle on. Test-takers shouldn’t waste time on their “problem” questions, but they should eventually answer all the questions on the exam.

Students Test Classroom ExamChung Sung-Jun/Getty ImagesThe SAT is being administered on October 3.

Even though there is technically a quarter of a point penalty for wrong answers, it’s always better to answer them all. Test-takers’ instincts are probably better than they think, and the penalty for guessing shouldn’t stress them out, according to Ryan.

Also, he says students should bring Gatorade or Powerade with them on test day. “Your brain undergoes something called ‘decision fatigue’ after you make a bunch of decisions in a row,” Ryan said.

He explained that sugar counteracts this so some type of “sugar water” is essential during a standardised testing.

Lastly, Ryan said that being relaxed and well-rested is actually the most important part of last-minute SAT test prep.

“Get a good night sleep,” he said. “There’s just no substitute for that.”

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