You’ve almost arrived—it’s the week before the SAT or ACT, and your hard work is about to pay off. You’ve memorized all of the punctuation rules, perfected your speed reading and analysis, and drilled algebra and trig problems for what feels like forever. Now’s the time to mentally and physically prepare for test day.
The SAT and ACT are not just tests of your knowledge but tests of how well you take exams. Here are some key things you can do the week leading up to your exam to make sure you’re in top shape for test day.
- Continue your studies as normal. Because you've been studying for this test for a while, you don’t need to cram during this last leg of the race. Instead, keep your mind fresh by brushing up on material, perhaps completing a section or two each day and checking over your answers. Nothing too fancy—you know what works for you!
- Get enough sleep each night. This is crucially important to your success on test day. Most people think a full night’s sleep the night before test day alone is enough. Studies have shown, though, that the sleep you get days before a big exam is actually what powers you through that test! Because of this, you need to make sure to get your zzz’s in all week.
- Check for updates. It’s a good idea to regularly check your email and the ACT/College Board websites in the days leading up to your exam. If you’re concerned about a possible cancellation, you can call your test center directly to confirm whether your test center plans to remain open.
Relax. Treat yourself well! You’ve worked hard to get here, and cramming is not going to do you any good. Take the night off from studying and sleep well—at least eight hours, if you can. And remember to set your alarm early enough that you don’t have to rush in the morning.
Pack your test day bag. This includes several wooden #2 pencils (no mechanical), a calculator, a watch (no smart watches), healthy snacks for the break, a water bottle, and comfortable clothing. If you’re someone who often gets a little chilly, bring a light jacket or sweater.
- Eat breakfast. Your health teacher wasn’t exaggerating when they said this was the most important meal of the day. Even if you aren’t one to usually eat breakfast, you should eat something small to get some fuel in your system. Protein is a good choice because it will keep you fueled well into the first break when you can eat your snack. If you’re a caffeine drinker, have your usual amount of coffee or tea in the morning so you get the dose of caffeine your body is used to. If you’re not, now isn’t the time to start (this is coming from experience)!
- Wake up your body and mind. Get that blood pumping to your body and brain by getting yourself moving and thinking. Try taking a shower, doing jumping jacks, yoga, or whatever speaks to you. Work on a crossword puzzle, read an article in the newspaper, or complete some simple math problems. These are not meant to stress you out but instead to wake up your brain and prime you to show your stuff on the test.
- Leave home at least 15 minutes early. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before the doors to the test center close. That way, you won’t have to worry about traffic or unexpected issues.
- Prepare for the unexpected. You never know what might happen on test day because there are so many moving pieces to administering the SAT and ACT. That being said, you always have control over the way you handle any mishaps or challenges.
- Stop and breathe if you find yourself in unfamiliar or stressful territory. This is nothing you can’t handle!
- Talk to someone about it, either during or after the test. If the proctor gave a confusing direction, ask them for clarification right away. You can also talk to your tutor or the College Board/ACT after the test for guidance.
- Most importantly, keep going! Don’t let a small issue throw off your entire exam.
- BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! You’ve worked hard and are more than prepared to nail this exam. Take a deep breath and go for it—you’ve got this!
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