We get it: the ACT and SAT can be terrifying tests. Students spend days, weeks, and months preparing for them. They are one of the crucial five factors within your control during the college application process, and after all that time and effort, it comes down to a nerve-racking marathon on a Saturday morning. So what can you do before the SAT or ACT to help maximize your chances?
As a note, in this blog, we are not talking about test preparation. As a general rule, taking practice tests to gauge your strengths and weaknesses and reviewing strategies and content on your own, with a test prep book, or with a tutor is going to help improve your score. Most if not all of that work should be done before the week of the test.
However, there are physical and logistical components you can focus on the week before the SAT or ACT. These tips will not increase what you know or change the strategies you deploy. However, they will help you use your preparation to the best of your ability.
Week Before the SAT or ACT
- Double-check the website (ACT or SAT) for cancellations or test center changes.
- If you haven’t been to the testing center before, then consider going for a drive so you are familiar with how to get there.
- Complete your test preparation work for the week—maintaining the routine that gives you the most success.
- Read the Test Day checklist published by either the ACT or the SAT, depending on which test you are taking.
- Think about when you will have to wake up on Saturday. For both tests, doors open at 7:45 a.m. and close at 8:00 a.m. Depending on how far you need to travel and how long you need to be fully awake and alert, you could be waking up at 6:00 a.m. Are you going to sleep early enough to get eight hours of sleep? If not, then consider adjusting your sleep schedule a few days before the SAT or ACT.
Day Before the SAT or ACT
- Change the batteries in your calculator, or make sure it’s fully charged. If you are putting new batteries in your calculator, then make sure those batteries are fresh and that the calculator turns on and functions.
- Make sure you have everything you need from the test checklists, including pencils, an eraser, a pencil sharpener, a watch that does not send or transmit information or make noise, your photo ID, and your calculator. Bring a snack and a drink, but make sure it is easily disposable—a granola bar rather than a banana or apple, for instance. If your testing center requires face coverings, then consider packing a backup.
Night Before the SAT or ACT
- Remember how we talked about your sleep schedule earlier? That comes into play tonight. Go to bed at a reasonable time to ensure that you get enough sleep before the test. Especially if you suffer from test anxiety, you may want to go to bed early the night before, as well.
- Do not cram. While we understand the temptation, trust in the prep you have done. Cramming now will not help you and may even make you more anxious.
Day of the SAT or ACT
- Give yourself time to be awake and alert. We all have different morning rituals that help us operate at our best. Do not skimp on these today—the last thing you want is to wake up during your first section!
- Eat breakfast. While there is no need for a three-egg omelet with extra cheese, bacon, and some scrapple on the side, try to eat a meal with some protein. You will need the energy!
- Be consistent with caffeine. If you are not a coffee, tea, or soda drinker, then do not start this morning. On the other hand, if you cannot function without your quad-shot vanilla latte with extra whip, then do not miss it!
- Leave early. Give yourself plenty of time to resolve potential challenges—trouble starting a car, the bus running late, getting stuck behind someone who insists on going 10 miles under the speed limit. Even if nothing goes wrong, you will have arrived in plenty of time to check in and compose yourself before the test begins.
During (and After) the Test
- Maximize your breaks. We know it can be tempting to put your head down during those brief breaks between sessions, but we encourage you to resist! If allowed, then get up and walk around. Have your drink and snack. These tests can be long and grueling; use every instant of your breaks so you return to the test recharged.
- Be ready for an experimental section. Both the SAT and ACT may have a fifth multiple-choice section. This is a normal part of testing, so do not let it stress you out. Do your best!
- Relax! Once you have finished, put the test out of your mind. You can start checking for your scores two to three weeks after your testing day.
Any more questions about the SAT or ACT? Let us help.