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How to prepare for the ACT exam / test day

It’s 8:00 AM. Saturday. The day you have been both waiting for and dreading over the past few months. ACT Test day.

Although you will certainly be feeling the pressure, remember that today is the day you get to show what you know. It isn’t the time to cram the formula for volume of a cylinder at the breakfast table, or frantically try to learn the exact definition of “superfluous.” Today you have to relax and be confident that you are ready to show this test who is boss! Make sure to stay confident, and facilitate your test day experience by using the following tips:

1. Make sure that you pack a bag with the following items the night before your test: a printed copy of your admission ticket, your ID (issued by your school or the government), a calculator (make sure you check and make sure your calculator is permitted here: http://www.actstudent.org/faq/answers/calculator.html TI-89 calculators, for example, are not!), several No. 2 sharpened pencils…not mechanical pencils!, snacks and Gatorade or water for breaks, a sweatshirt or light jacket in case you get cold, and a watch so that you can keep track of your timing.

2. GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP ON THE NIGHTS LEADING UP TO THE TEST. This is absolutely key! Don’t sleep 4 hours on the Thursday night and then 12 hours on the Friday night before your test. Stay consistent, and know how much sleep you need and what works best by taking your diagnostics under real conditions. This means figuring out if you perform better with 8 hours of sleep or 10 hours of sleep.

3. Eat a good dinner the night before (think carbo-loading with whole grain pastas and other foods that will keep your energy up the next morning), making sure to drink lots of water the night before, and try to eat a protein-rich breakfast that morning. Go easy on the caffeine (but have a little if you typically drink coffee or tea in the mornings), and don’t drink too many liquids the morning of the test.

4. Get up early. Don’t rush through breakfast. Give yourself time to have a relaxed morning so that you don’t have a huge adrenaline rush before the test even begins.

5. Review a few of your notes or vocabulary to get yourself in the “testing mindset.” This doesn’t mean learn all that last minute information, but rather remind yourself of what you already know.

6. Dress in comfortable clothing that won’t distract you. This is not the correct or appropriate venue for those tight jeans or a scratchy wool sweater.

7. Don’t be late. Check in at your test center BEFORE 8 AM. Make sure that you go to the appropriate test center (check your registration).

8. Choosing your seat: sit somewhere you won’t be distracted. In general, stay away from doors that people will enter and exit to go to the bathroom or drafty windows. It is often best to choose a seat where you cannot see any other students, such as in the front row.

Now sit back, relax and have a great test! You’ll do fantastic.


If you’re looking for any test prep or private tutoring, feel free to get in touch directly at (800) 501-7737.
Thank you Beryl Manning-Geist for writing this post and helping students prepare for the SAT, ACT and more!

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