SAT Prep | Winter 2013

SAT Prep: 5 Ways Surviving the Zombiepocalypse Can Help You on Test Day

by Rory Hatfield | for

It’s no secret that zombie fiction is widely popular among teenagers – it’s interesting, suspenseful, and transports its viewers into a complex world rife with danger and excitement.  In other words, it’s nothing like the SAT. Glaring differences aside, the keen survivors in the zombie universe exhibit five skills you’d be wise to emulate on Test Day:

zombieland-double-tapAlways Double Check

In the graphic novel and television show The Walking Dead, Rick, Andrea, Michonne and their group carefully search any potential shelter and supply depot for zombies. In the movie Zombieland, one of protagonist Columbus’ survival tips is the “double tap,” or re-shooting fallen zombies to make sure they can’t get back up.

You should likewise be careful on Test Day by double checking your work. Is your arithmetic error-free? Did you read the question stem correctly? Losing points because you answered for x instead of x + 3 may be preferable to an ambush from zombies – but such simple mistakes would certainly leave you groaning like one!

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Act Quickly

Across all zombie TV shows, movies and graphic novels, each disparate group of survivors have one thing in common: acting quickly under pressure. In Zombieland, Columbus doesn’t hesitate to save Wichita when she’s trapped on a Ferris wheel, surrounded by the undead. In The Walking Dead, leader Rick mobilizes his group and takes command at the first sign of danger, and the characters in Shaun of the Dead stay alive by lurching like the undead to blend in with the hoards of zombies.

Acting quickly on Test Day will benefit you, too. Read Critical Reading passages by taking brief notes in under five minutes; answer Math questions in order, racking up points on the easier questions first; if you don’t know how to answer a question, skip it and go back to it later. Remember – you get the highest score on the SAT by answering the most questions, so act quickly!

plants-vs-zombiesVary Your Strategy

In the cute (yet addicting) video game Plants Vs. Zombies, you’re charged with protecting your home from a variety of undead characters, which can be countered by planting a quite-literal potpourri.

A group of giant ogre zombies staring you down? Build a gauntlet of high-powered watermelon catapults and corn-cob missile launchers. Plagued by airborne zombies, who are ballooning over your artillery fire? Plant a daisy to blow them away. No plant can stop any type of zombie, but arranging a “garden variety” of flora can protect your house from a wide range of enemies.

Adopt this strategy and boost your SAT score by changing your tactics for every section and question type. Stumped by an algebra problem? Pick small integers for the variables. Stuck on an arithmetic question with integers in the answer choices? Plug those actual answers back into the question instead. Confused by a geometry figure? Search it for right triangles.

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​Keep Your Energy Up

As you might imagine, clawing for survival in a post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland can be a grind. It’s no surprise that their survivors keep rested and well-nourished. Characters on The Walking Dead rotate the night watch shift so everyone gets a chance to sleep; Shaun and Ed hole up in their favorite tavern; heck, even the characters in Zombieland hang out with Bill Murray.

You can stave off weariness on Test Day by using your breaks wisely. Stay close to your testing room; rather than seeking out a vending machine for snacks, bring your own. That way, you’re guaranteed to have food that you like (vending machines options aren’t always ideal) and you can spend your time recharging and gearing up for the next section.

I recommend bringing nutrient-dense, high-energy foods, like yogurt, nuts, apples and granola. Stay away from junk food, although it does play a prominent role in…

enjoy-the-little-things​Focus on What You Know and Like

There aren’t many sources of happiness in Zombieland – the planet is ravaged by the undead, supplies are scarce and rebuilding civilization, if it’s even possible, could take decades of painstaking labor.

Nevertheless, Woody Harrelson still finds pleasure in the little things.

It’s hard to believe that I’m actually writing this, but you should act like Woody Harrelson when taking the SAT. Don’t dwell on the hard stuff the test throws at you – focus on what you know (and like) instead. Rather than let yourself get befuddled by tough vocab words in passages, read past them – you can always figure out the passages’ main ideas through other, more familiar, context clues. Stuck figuring out what to write for your essay? Don’t feel obligated to write about serious stuff – you’re graded on the specificity and relevance of your examples, not the content. Brainstorm examples like a class trip, your cross-country team, or the cast party of the drama club. Taking the SAT is difficult enough – why make it more challenging than it has to be?

Remember – taking the SAT only seems like the end of the world. Follow my advice on Test Day, and you’ll be pleased when you see your score report “28 Days Later”!


Rory Hatfield teaches pre-college classes (SAT/ACT/PSAT) for Kaplan's Live Online division full-time; and is also a student at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education, where he is earning a Masters in Instructional Design. He has taught numerous courses and events for Kaplan, including sample classes on college admissions, writing an effective personal statement, and whether to take the SAT, ACT, or both. Ask Rory a Question on StudentAdvisor