So… you are finally ready for the big test. You go to sleep Friday night, confident in your progress and abilities, and proceed to be agonized by nightmares that limit you to two hours of sleep. Or worse, you get so much sleep that you slumber right through your alarm. Better to have a strategy to make sure that all of your hard work was not in vain.
For starters, don’t do any prep work Friday night. Cramming may work for final exams and college, but if you aren’t prepared for the test by the night before, you are in trouble.
From personal experience, I can attest to this. Many years ago, I was frantically preparing a new manual for an SAT math class that I was running in New Jersey. I did something I hadn’t done since college – the dreaded “all-nighter”. With the book close to completion, I finally fell asleep at 5:00 a.m. Two hours later, I woke up in a sweat. I was in the middle of a math nightmare. It was too scary and bizarre to even attempt to put in words.
Ok, so what should we be doing the night before?
Focus on doing something that will take your mind off of the big test. How about watching a movie? Sounds simple, right? Well, some thought needs to go into your movie selection decision. Remember, we are looking for a good night’s sleep!
– No scary movies!! Much as you would love to see Freddy Krueger for the 15th time and catch up on the latest Conjuring sequel, this would be one of the worst decisions you ever made. No nightmares!!
– No sad movies!! If you go to sleep crying, you will probably spend most of the night crying. And, sad to say, this includes Disney movies. Don’t forget – Bambi’s mother, Mufasa, evil stepmothers, and the list goes on.
– No romantic comedies!! Boy meets girl, girl meets boy. Everything’s happy and wonderful! What happens? Boy loses girl, girl loses boy. Oh sure, we know they might get back together, but at this point you have fallen asleep in those incredibly comfortable reclining seats at the theater and when you wake up will be crying as you watch the credits roll.
– No sci-fi adventure films!! I love Star Wars and Star Trek as much as everyone, but after it’s over, my adrenaline is on a high and I can’t sleep. Neither will you.
– No serious movies!! Who needs to spend all night agonizing over whether we should have invaded the Falkland Islands?
What does this leave us? Dumb comedies!! Movies with no plot!! These are the kinds of movies that will take your mind off the test and allow you to get a good night’s sleep, as long as you stop watching at least an hour before you go to bed.
Sleeping brings up another important issue. Most parents want their child to go to bed early the night before the test. A rather unscientific survey of the students that I have taught over the years reveals that the average high school student goes to bed at 11:00 on a school night. So naturally, what does every parent do? They have their child go to bed at 9:00 the night before the SAT. As a parent, I usually do not advocate disagreeing with your parents, but here’s a case where you will be right. If you listen to them, you will alter your circadian rhythm, otherwise know as your sleep and wake cycle. Instead of waking up well rested at 7:00 a.m. as planned, your body will want to stay in bed and sleep a couple more hours.
I know what all the parents out there are thinking right now: not working on Friday night risks forgetting everything a student has ever learned. That’s where a good breakfast enters the picture. While your teen is eating a healthy, energy-improving breakfast, have him or her open up a practice test and do a few problems to warm up their brain. That’s all they need!