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Cassidy Hopkins Headshot

My SAT Experience: The Good, the Bad, and the Annoying

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I've recently started to consider myself an SAT pro. Not because I took a bunch of SAT-prep courses, or because I got a perfect score, but because I have now taken the SAT three times (and the ACT once). Usually seniors in high school will only take the SAT one or two times. Three times is pushing it and four times, I have been told, is pretty useless. My college counselor told me that taking the SAT a second time will usually improve your score but after three or four times your score typically stays the same- or gets worse. I pressed my luck for taking the SAT three times, but I have a good excuse. The first time I took the SAT was at the end of my junior year this past May. My score? Well let's just say I didn't know you got penalized for wrong answers. I learned my lesson and took the SAT again in October, my score went up nearly 300 points -- and there were no fancy SAT prep courses I took to thank for that. I took the November SAT this past Saturday and my experience was interesting, to say the least...

I woke up to take the SAT at 5:30. Yes, 5:30 ante meridiem (that's a.m. in case you didn't know). I wasn't bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I wasn't awake at all, but I gathered enough strength to slip on my UGG boots, throw my hair in a messy bun, and put on a sweatshirt. It was 15 minutes before I had to leave to get to the test center when something terrible happened. I couldn't find my student ID. But I just took the ACT two weekends ago and it is always in my wallet, I thought. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Nowhere to be found. "Dad, Dad, have you seen my passport?" I asked franticly. "Your passport?" my dad asked. I told him I could not find my student ID and he became a little upset because he couldn't remember where my passport was. We couldn't find my passport and time was ticking so I ran up stairs, stood in the hallway outside my room and thought, Where could my student ID be? My mind raced through everything I did in the past two weeks... rehearsal and auditions for theatre- no ID needed then, club leadership meetings- no, not there, yearbook class? No way. What about homecoming... homecoming! That was it. I needed my student ID to gain entrance into the homecoming dance! I ran into my room, ran to my dresser, and picked up my black satin clutch that I brought to the dance and voilà, there it was. My super-awkward-shiny-faced school picture was smiling at me saying, "You found me! Now go take your SAT."

I overestimated the time needed to get to the test taking center so I arrived a half hour early. I had never been to the high school I was taking this SAT at so I really had no idea where I was going. I followed flocks of fellow SATers up a ramp and into a building where the administrators had tacked up lists on the wall that told us what room we were each assigned to. "Hopkins, C... Room 52," I read. Cool, I have no idea where room 52 is, I thought, but I continued walking like I knew where I was going anyway. Ladida. I sang in my head, everyone follow me, right this way to room 52! But after a while of aimlessly wandering and countless room number checkings, I realized I was lost. Putting my arrogance aside, I went up to an administrator and asked, "Can you please help me find room 52"? "Right over there," the nice lady pointed... across the hall. Cool. I was right where I was supposed to be.

I stood there outside of the room with the other students, waiting for the supervisor to open the doors. Then I saw a boy who was wearing a button-up shirt, a smooth tie, nice khaki pants, and a shiny pair of brown loafers. Um, what? Is he a teenager? Is he here to give us the test? Maybe a teacher working over the weekend? All my questions were answered when I saw that, in his left hand, he was holding an admissions ticket. I looked down at my UGG boots and sweatshirt... Um, maybe I should've dressed nicer. Although I had tried to wear a better outfit before (I wore jeans and a cute blouse to my May SAT and just look where that got me -- nowhere near a good score) but I thought it was protocol to wear comfy sweats. Was this guy going to score a 2400 on his SAT because he dressed the part? I looked around at the other students -- they were all dressed like me. While I give that boy props for being professional, I don't think dressing so nicely would have been the best option for me. I concentrate far better when I'm comfortable, but I suppose that is just personal preference. Suddenly, to my relief, the supervisor came and opened the classroom doors.

When we were finally inside room 52, I realized how freezing it was. The heater hadn't been on and the seats were as cold as ice. The girl sitting next to me was wearing ripped jeans, flip-flops, and a short-sleeved tee. She was making me cold just looking at her. I looked toward the front of the room at the guy in seat 14- he was combing his Afro with a pick-comb. Alrighty then. The supervisor then started to walk around, checking everyone's calculator to make sure they were "approved devices," he arrives at seat 27 and the girl sitting there says, "I didn't bring one." My jaw nearly dropped. Math is my Achilles heel; if I didn't bring a calculator to the SAT I would surely get a horrid score. Apparently they write the math sections so they can be done without a calculator but Ms. Seat 27 could have it her way -- I was safe with my TI-84 (Plus, Silver Edition) in seat 17.

At around 8:25, the test started. I was pacing my way through irritating word problems, tedious grammar sections, and reading and comprehension sections when it happened again. The supervisor kept walking around the room picking up each student's extra pencils and "graciously" sharpening them for us. Really? REALLY? It went like this: twist, twist, crack, twist, twist, done. Then again, and again, and then he got to me and took the liberty of sharpening my #2 while I was sitting there glaring at him in my mind. Get out of here, I begged. Eventually he was finished, now I could concentrate on the next section, section 5. I turned the page when instructed to, praying it wasn't another math section -- and it wasn't. It was a reading section -- yahooo! I started reading the excerpt given and was shocked to discover that it wasn't a boring piece about astrology or biological science. Rather, it was an excerpt from a romantic novel. I became a little carried away with reading it and at times I wanted to say "Awww!" aloud. My heart was totally swooning and I think I was smiling. Hopefully I got the questions from that section right because I actually had fun answering them. Who knew the SAT could actually bring joy?

After section 10, the test was over. And it was about time -- it was about 1 p.m. when I got out of room 52. I hadn't gotten up one single time to stretch -- not even at breaks -- mostly because I was cold but also because I'm pretty bodacious. I walked outside of the building and sat on a bench near the front of the school. I was alone, waiting for my mom to pick me up, when I saw a guy I knew from my high school. He walked past me and I smiled and said hello, he looked at me and said, "Hi, you go to my school, right?" I was taken aback and I said, "Yes, that I do." He then asked me why I was taking the SAT at this particular high school and I told him because I registered late... then he went off to talk to his actual friends. I wasn't upset that he didn't recognize me but I was surprised because I had talked to him at school before -- specifically the day before... in the hallway... because he was asking me about senior superlatives. Ah, but whatever, no hard feelings. I wasn't looking too chipper anyway, not that I look "chipper" at school, but that's beside the point.

Hopefully I conquered the SAT's this time around (I'm hoping for 40 more points). It sucks waking up at 5:30 on a Saturday morning but I'd much rather go to college than sleep in. And the best part about taking the SAT this past Saturday was that I will never have to take it again. Huzzah and good luck to all you high school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, I pray your SAT experience is as exciting as mine was.

Oh, and a final message to the guy in the back of the room who kept swaying his chair back and forth throughout all of section 8: Rock your test, not your seat!