Conquering the SAT Stress: and Students’ Experiences with the SAT

Students share their experiences and stresses with the SAT.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

At Stuyvesant High School, students are expected to perform exceptionally well on standardized tests—most infamously, the SAT. However, this expectation might manifest itself as a form of internal pressure in addition to stress from parents and peers. Students have different ways to lessen the burden on themselves, leading to a variety of experiences with the SAT within the student body.

Junior Benjamin Lim studied for the SAT the summer of his sophomore year and took the SAT early in his junior year. “I wasn't ever worried. I know other people are, but I just know I'm good at taking tests,” Lim said.   

For Lim, the test was more intuitive than a measure of academic skills. “It's not a test of your reading ability or math skills. It's more of a test-taking test: you have to have good test-taking skills, time management, process of elimination.” Due to this, he felt that it wasn’t necessary to overstress studying for the SAT. “You have [sophomore year] summer [and] junior year spring and fall. That's quite a bit of time,” he added.

Lim’s intuitive success with the SAT allowed him to conquer parental pressure. “My parents always wanted me to do well—to get at least a 1550 on it. [It's high], yes, but I just did a bunch of test prep to make up for it,” he said.

Senior Pepsi H had a substantially different experience with the SAT. They began practicing in the summer of their sophomore year and then took the SAT twice throughout their junior and senior years. Their score never affected their stress greatly. “When I was in sophomore year, I was consistently scoring 1400+ on practice tests. I [told myself], ‘Yeah, you can probably score 1450 or above or whatever. I didn't have a number I was hitting for.’”

Lin was influenced by parental pressure. Though, relatively speaking, they do not believe the stress their parents caused was very intense. “My mother was stressing me out about it, but compared to things I’ve heard, it wasn’t that bad,” Lin said. Peer pressure had a minimal effect on Lin. “My peers were chill about [the SAT]. I don't even know what my best friend's score was because we just did not talk about it.”

Instead, the greatest pressure Lin felt came from the weight of studying for months. “I cared about [the SAT] in the sense that I wanted to do well for the sake of doing well. There was pressure of just not wanting to think about it anymore,” Lin said. Lin’s detached attitude about the SAT was due to their perception of the SAT as a formality rather than an evaluation of one’s intelligence. “[The test] is all concepts. There's a fixed quantity of kinds of questions they ask, and past a certain point, they don't even change the wording of the questions.”

Like Lim and Lin, senior Pulindu Weeraskeera didn’t feel much pressure when preparing for the SAT. “With testing, I've usually always been pretty okay at it. I didn't feel peer pressure that much [either] because I was never in one of those crowds where your worth is based on your academic achievements. And I don't think my mom really understood that the SAT was that important, so there wasn't that much pressure [from her either].”

Weeraskeera admits the digital SAT is a change that could potentially add to stress. “If you've been in the school system for nine to 10 years, most of your tests were probably on paper. But now [with the digital SAT], you have to get used to this new type of testing format. It might be a little jarring. It might affect [students’] mentality going into the test,” he explained. 

For junior Danny Akhmedov, self-confidence was the key to conquering SAT stress. Akhmedov studied for the SAT throughout his sophomore year before taking the test early junior year. Parental pressure plagued Akhmedov’s studying experience, yet it never weighed him down. “The target score I've been given [by my parents] was 1520, [but] my range was medium 1400s to 1500. I wasn't worried about disappointing my parents because I'm doing this for myself, the way I'm looking at it, and I don't like allowing stuff like that to [affect] me so much.”

Evaluating the extent to which students feel pressure from the SAT may be a meaningless task, as individual experiences vary tremendously. Regardless, it stands to show that building familiarity with the material and a sense of intuition can bolster self-confidence and may be an effective strategy in relieving stress.