Last week we received many anguished, panicked calls from our students. On the very eve of SAT testing, an e-mail was informing them that the test was to be rescheduled. No new date was given, though the sender, testing agency the College Board, did promise “We will be back in touch as soon as possible with makeup details.”

Such a last-minute change can occur with any test, due to extreme weather, natural disaster, power outages, facility problems, or, as in this case, security concerns.Stressful and frustrating, a test date cancellation may derail the plans of many thousands of individuals–in this case every SAT registrant for the date in Egypt, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia.

What to Do

To  some extent dealing with an SAT date cancellation is just a waiting game. There’s not much you can do. Keep an eye on your e-mail. Check the College Board test center closings page (where new dates are posted) in case you’ve missed an update. Relax. You should know your worst fears are likely unfounded:

  • “The test will never be rescheduled.” It is in the interest of a testing agency to reschedule as soon as possible, to retain its reputation. In our case here, fairly typically, the College Board did quickly set a new date, with the test offered only a couple of weeks after originally planned.
  • “I will miss my deadline.” If this is indeed the case, notify the institution to which you are applying about your problem. U.S. universities (and other program sponsors) tend to be very accommodating when the situation is out of the applicant’s control.
  • “I won’t be able to test on the reschedule date.” While they make no universal guarantee, the College Board would work with you to find a date that fits. If you know you have a problem with the new test date, contact the College Board right away to let them know there is a problem and for best choice of new test dates.

A Blessing in Disguise

An abrupt and unexpected change is seldom pleasant. But you might think of an SAT date cancellation as an opportunity, a gift of more time to prepare yourself. How can you make the most of this gift? We have a few tips

  • Don’t overstudy. Probably you are already well-prepared considering that you were about to take the test. Even if not, don’t put in more than a few hours a day. The practice of “cramming” has been shown to be ineffective, with sensibly spaced study working better for 90 percent of students. Cramming can also interfere with sleep, and such interference has been shown by UCLA researchers to lead to added problems testing.
  • See where you stand. Take a sample SAT test. (One great source is the Khan Academy.) Then review your results. On which sections and types of questions do you most need to focus your study? Base your plans on the evidence.
  • Simulate actual testing. Newton does this regularly with our students, but there’s no reason you can’t, even at home. In fact, Newton has offered all its March test students complimentary review sessions to help them prepare for the rescheduled test. Set things up as much as possible as if you were in a classroom setting. Time yourself. Take breaks only as you would during the real test. Do all this during your initial practice test, then take a second sample SAT under the same conditions two or three days before the real test.
  • Get into a routine. If you’re not already, a week before the test start going to bed early and getting up the time that you will need to on test day. You’ll get comfortable with the schedule and it will be easier come test time. Get at least eight hours of sleep a night. Study a bit in the morning over a healthy breakfast, again as you will on test day.
  • Have everything ready to go the night before testing. Lay out your comfortable, lucky testing clothes and go through this College Board checklist gathering all the other bits and pieces. Be sure your admission ticket is the version with the new date; the old one will not be accepted,

Go in with confidence. You have had the gift of extra preparation and you are more than ready for this challenge! We wish you the best and no more surprises….