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3 Test-Taking Tips From the Harvard Grad Who Aced the SAT

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. | Last updated on

October 3rd is just around the corner and it looks like the latest SAT is set to ruin the lives of a fresh legion of college hopefuls. Whether you're gearing up for the SAT, LSAT, or bar exam, there are a few universal tricks to help you excel.

According to one test-taking expert, your strategy should include sleep, proper strategy, and sugar water.

Business insider tracked down the Vice President of Manhattan Prep, Chris Ryan, who scored an astounding perfect score on the SAT. Appropriately, Ryan now works as an SAT instructor. Here are three of his practical tips to help boost students' scores on tough exams:

1. Know Your Weaknesses

Ryan's first piece of advice is to know your strengths and weaknesses. "It's like the old Clash Song 'Should I stay or Should I Go,'" he told Business Insider. In practice, this means knowing which question types to skip.

In order to find the questions that might trip you up, Ryan suggest the "30 second starter" -- 30-second countdown on individual practice questions. If you can't finish a question in 30 seconds (or whatever measure of time is appropriate for the test you're up against), you should consider that a problem question.

Ryan's solution? Skip the hard ones; save them for later. In his words, "Get the points that are layups for you". Students should not be afraid to skip questions they know will be a struggle for them.

2. A Simple Solution: Sugar Water

Another suggestion has an almost rabbit's foot ring to it; think sugar water. Ryan suggests that test takers should bring Gatorade or Powerade with them on their test day. He observes that the brain undergoes decision fatigue after making many decisions in a row and that "sugar water" will counteract this effect.

3. A Good Night's Sleep

Finally, Ryan emphasizes that good sleep (which lawyers notoriously lack) is the most important tool for maximizing one's odds against a test. Sometimes the most obvious advice is the best. The effects of sleep deprivation on cognition have been studied widely and it's best not to try and play the all-nighter game before a big test.

Applications to the LSAT and the Bar Exam

These test-taking suggestions can be applied to longer and more arduous exams such as the LSAT and the bar exam. It should be noted that applicants who plan to sit for the bar exam will be prevented from bringing any fluids into the testing room. An alternative method of ensuring fuel for your brain is to eat a high glucose breakfast such as a sweet potato or banana for the first three hours; then consume another during the one hour break for the afternoon leg.

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