Let me tell you about the first time I took the SAT.
I had no idea what I was doing. A plump seventh grader, I barely knew what the SAT was, but I was excited to peek inside Lovett, the (to my mind) tony private school about which I had merely heard in my family hovel in Smyrna, Georgia. I remember nothing about the exterior of the school, or the hallways, or the bathrooms, or even the test itself, but I do remember the floor-to-ceiling windows which opened onto the vast bucolic expanse of a verdant garden. Leaves swayed languidly. A brook babbled. Waterlilies floated on a small pond. It was like a haiku. I got about a 1000–good enough to qualify for the summer programs that my family couldn’t afford to send me to.
Four years later, I took it again at Frederick Douglass High School in Atlanta. There were no windows, just beige concrete that intensified the heat, odors and sounds of the thirty shuffling students in the room. Intensely uncomfortable, I scored barely two hundred points above my previous score.
The third time, I opted for Lovett again, and I hit my goal.
The moral of the story is this: take your test somewhere pleasant, somewhere where you feel comfortable, and you will probably get a higher score.