While SATs are spread throughout the year, this is one of the hottest seasons. Many high schoolers are either taking their first test, sitting for the SATs, or improving upon previous SAT scores. No matter which situation you’re in, there are a few easy things you can do to maximize your score:

  1. Give yourself time. When you start studying is entirely up to you. It’s been shown, time and time again, the sooner you start studying, the better you’ll do. It’s a self-evident truth, but it’s only further reinforced by studies that show the same thing.

Not only can you goose your score an extra 50 or 100 points by getting ready earlier, but the study itself will be easier as well. You see, while you will be spending more hours getting ready, the most powerful part of starting study early isn’t the extra time as much as the chance for your mind to process everything. In other words, you’ll remember more of what you cover, without the stress of cramming.

  1. Practice. Nothing, absolutely nothing, will give you as big a leg up as practice tests. With practice, you’ll memorize the test instructions, so you won’t have to spend time figuring out what you’re being asked in each section. With practice, you’ll get a better feel for the questions you’ll see, and the types of thinking you’ll need to apply. And, of course, with practice, you’ll learn your weakest areas, and hence have an opportunity to focus your study where it will do the most good.

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  1. A Word a Day. Hopefully, you already know a good number of the SAT vocabulary words. That said, very few people know enough to feel confident without study, and, as mentioned earlier, cramming a bunch of words at a time isn’t the best way to retain them.

If you start early enough, though, you can add a word a day without too much trouble, and cover most of the gaps in your knowledge. With only a word a day, you can really focus on it, go over the definition, use it three times in everyday conversation, and review it again before you go to sleep. Easy and highly effective.

  1. Relax. For many students, the hardest thing about the test is knowing you’re being tested. Studies have shown that most people feel less intelligent under test-like pressure, and they answer incorrectly to questions with answers they know.

The solution? Learn how to relax your mind.

Studying early and taking many practice tests help here, and the confidence you gain can make a big difference.

But there are plenty of other things you can do as well. Practice various breathing techniques, anything from counting to ten to full-on meditation. Calm yourself just before the test starts and between any sections, if you have the time. Learn to recognize when you mind is tensing and, as you notice it, do your best to sooth your mind.

  1. Prep yourself right. This should go without saying, but before the test get a good night’s rest. After all, nothing dulls the brain like lack of sleep.

Try to make your night-before meal a light, healthy one. Salmon, for example, is rich in brain-assisting fatty acids.

Of course you should have a good idea what will help your body work best, the key is, don’t give it short shrift during the drama and tension that often precede an SAT sitting.

Treat yourself right and you’ll help yourself in the end.