What to expect on test day: before the test

The most important part of doing well on the ACT or SAT is what you do in the months leading up to the test: meeting regularly with your tutor, completing your homework, using practice tests to check your progress and identify weaknesses, etc. However, there are several things that you can do in the few days leading up to your exam that can maximize your score. In the first installment of this 3-part blog series, we'll focus on these finishing touches that can ensure you do as well as possible on test day.

Final review 

For most students, the day before your official test will be a Friday. If you have school assignments due, get them finished early in the week. Spend your Friday like any other school day, and try to wrap up your studies and activities at a reasonable hour.

It's okay to review a little—emphasis on little. A good guideline is no more than 30 minutes. If there’s one particular part of the test that you’ve focused the most on, you may want to complete a few practice problems from that section. Think about the most important overall principles you and your tutor have discussed. These should be personalized, but here are a few possibilities that many students can benefit from:

English (ACT)/Writing (SAT):

  1. When in doubt, identify the main verb of a sentence and its subject. This will allow you to find what is essential to the sentence (the independent clause) and what is not essential (dependent clauses and phrases). From here, apply the punctuation rules you know that determine how these parts of sentences can be linked.
  2. All things equal, choose concise and straightforward answers. The shortest answer choice is often correct.

Math (ACT & SAT):

  1. Write all of your thinking down on the paper. Add as much info as possible to geometric figures, and double check that your answers are correct.
  2. If you’re stuck, try plugging in numbers for variables to see if that helps.

Reading (ACT & SAT):

  1. Don’t stray too far from the passage. Make sure every answer choice is backed up by evidence from the passage.
  2. Avoid extreme answer choices. Choose neutral, middle-of-the-road answers.

Science (ACT only):

  1. Focus on the data presented in the tables and graphs. Do minimal reading.


Once you’re done reviewing, it’s time to take care of some logistical things. Follow these three easy steps to make your test day as stress-free as possible:

  1. Take some time to prepare the materials that you will take with you to the test center. Bring at least one bottle of water and a light snack. Make sure you’ve got plenty of sharpened #2 pencils, and double check that your calculator batteries are charged. Pack all of these items together with your admissions ticket so that you won’t need to search for anything in the morning.
  2. Get to bed early! Being well rested is much more important than doing last-minute cramming. There is no single, crucial piece of content that you are going to learn the night before the test that is going to make or break your score. However, if you are tired on test day, you might score significantly lower than you otherwise would have.
  3. Wake up early enough so that you have plenty of time to get ready without rushing. Eat a full breakfast and bring a snack with you to the test center.

The night before your official exam can be a stressful time. If you follow the advice above, you’ll not only calm your nerves, but you’ll also put yourself in the best position to maximize your score.

Click here to find out what you can expect at the test center.

Need more individualized advice?

The recommendations above are general suggestions. If you have specific questions, reach out to our experts here. We’re happy to help in any way we can.

About ArborBridge

ArborBridge is the global leader in innovative, digital, one-on-one tutoring. With nearly a decade of experience teaching students online, ArborBridge supports students of all kinds: home schoolers, AP students, test preppers, and more. Our tutors specialize in creating personalized plans and in providing compassionate support for students and families.

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