The ACT is just days away. Like hundreds of thousands of students around the country, you may be getting jitters. That’s normal! You’re probably looking forward to a well-deserved break from studying, too. All in good time. These last few days are an important time, and there are a few commonsense things you can do to improve your test experience and score. Let’s take a look at some last minute ACT tips to help you do your best on the exam!
Now’s the time for a big push to get you to your goal. Let’s get started!
Last-Minute ACT Tips Before Test Day
1. Focus on Your Weaknesses
At this point, you’ve (hopefully) taken plenty of practice tests and reviewed the various ACT tips for each section. In the last few days, focus solely on your weaknesses, whether it be a whole test (section) of the ACT, or just a few topics. By using your time wisely, you’re sure to do better in these areas on test day.
It’s a delicate balance, though: don’t try to cram in tons of new concepts at this stage. Instead, just review those that you’re rusty on or areas where you may have been scoring low on your practice exams.
2. One Final Practice Test
When you’ve finished studying, take one last time practice test about two days before test day. The results will give you a heads-up on what to expect for your ACT score. Not only will you go into the ACT feeling confident, you will be able to compare your ACT score with this result to determine if your performance was off on test day.
As for the day before test day, don’t study or prepare. Don’t. Your brain needs a little time to decompress and relax. Get out there and do something enjoyable.
3. Follow Your Routines
Nothing can hurt your ACT score more than feeling off on test day. To make sure that you’re prepared both mentally and physically, keep your routine the night before and morning of the ACT. That means no going to bed extra early or extra late, no chugging energy drinks on the way to the testing center. Just do…well, whatever it is you normally do!
4. Visualize Success
Whether it’s going to the doctor or flying on an airplane, there are certain triggers that cause our stress level to skyrocket. For those of you who get sweaty palms and a racing heartbeat even at the thought of the testing room, there are a few things you can do to calm your reaction to that trigger.
Even before you start to feel anxiety, imagine that the test is over. You’re walking out of the testing room, and feeling good about how you performed. Though the actual ACT might throw you an unexpected curve ball or two, a positive frame of mind can stop all that energy-sucking anxiety that plagues many test takers.
Tips for Test Day
5. Show Up Prepared
The last thing you want to worry about as you shake yourself awake on test day is what you need to bring:
Here’s a complete list:
- admissions ticket (print from ACTstudent.org)
- photo identification (crucial! You will not be admitted without it. Check acceptable forms of identification here.)
- several sharpened soft lead No. 2 pencils (the old fashioned wooden kind; NOT mechanical.)
- a permitted calculator (did you know that using a TI-89 is the most common reason students are dismissed from the ACT? Check the list of prohibited calculators here.)
- extra batteries
- a watch to pace yourself (you can’t rely on the fact that the test room will have a clock.)
- pencil sharpener
- healthy snacks (see below)
- a water bottle
- gum (did you know chewing gum improves accuracy and reaction times? Check out this and other test prep lifehacks.)
- an outfit with layers (your test room may be too hot or too cold. It is rarely just right, Goldilocks.)
6. Keep your focus during the test.
A surefire way to not get the score you want is to constantly pay attention to the test-takers around you. How does that girl in front of you answer math problems so fast? Why can’t that kid stop tapping his foot? Try to stay in the zone and focus on your particular strategies. Everyone is different, and what these other students are doing is irrelevant. And it should go without saying that you should avoid any temptation to peer at your neighbor’s answer sheet. Cheating is not a risk you want to run here. And he’s probably wrong anyway.
7. Eat on your breaks even if you aren’t hungry.
Your brain needs fuel just like the rest of your body, even if your nervous stomach doesn’t think so. And the last thing you want is to let a perfectly good snack break go to waste only to regret it later when your stomach is howling halfway through the Science section. Fruit is great test fuel: the natural sugars help give you energy. Make sure to have something with protein too, like a handful of nuts. Many of my students swear by peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or trail mix with chocolate for the perfect combo of sugar and sustenance. Don’t forget the water!
8. Reward Yourself
You worked hard for this, and no matter how you think the test went, afterwards treat yourself to something you enjoy. You need the mental break and relaxation. But as important as an after-test reward is, I think that what is even more important is rewarding yourself during the exam. No, you can’t whip out a cookie in the middle of the English section, but give yourself mental pats on the back when you catch yourself doing something right. So many students beat themselves up during a test for what they think they are doing wrong. Put a stop to this destructive mentality and instead congratulate yourself when you find yourself doing something right: sticking to your pacing or recognizing a grammar error you’ve missed before. It’s a long test and a positive attitude is crucial!