- Assemble everything you need for the test several days in advance. This includes: your admission ticket, photo ID, calculator (with fresh batteries), number 2 pencils (not mechanical), an eraser, a watch, snacks and drinks. A few notes about the watch: you’re not guaranteed to have a clock in your testing room, and unfortunately the quality of proctors can be uneven. If you bring a watch, you can time yourself on each section of the SAT or ACT and make sure that you won’t be caught off guard when time is called.
- Sleep, stay physically active, and eat nutritious food in the few days leading up to the test. This is good life advice in general, but it’s especially important when the SAT or ACT are on the horizon. Both tests demand a great deal of endurance, and you need to be physically and mentally on top of your game to make it through 5 stressful hours. Your brain will perform at its peak if your body is well-nourished and rested. Along those lines, eat a balanced and filling breakfast on test day!
- Don’t cram. The SAT and ACT are not memorization tests. While it’s very possible to prepare for them and improve your score, you won’t significantly improve by cranking out five practice tests on Thursday and Friday. When it’s a week before the test, you’ve already done most of the important work. Now it’s about staying the course. I recommend doing at most one section per day (for the SAT, this would be one critical reading, math, or writing section; for the ACT, either English, math, reading, or science). Completing one section per day will help you stay fresh with the material and roll into the test on Saturday feeling confident and prepared. Some students even benefit from doing a couple problems the morning of the test to wake up their brain — but only do that if it won’t add to your stress!
- Keep the proper perspective. Yes, the SAT and ACT are important tests for college admissions, but no, they won’t determine the outcome of your life and your ultimate happiness. Stay calm and confident, aim for that great score, and if you don’t quite get there, remember that you can always retake in the fall!
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