How to Get Ready for this Fall’s ACT and SAT

Student studying for SAT

Taking the SAT or ACT can be stressful. However, unnecessary stress can be reduced, or even eliminated, when you’re adequately prepared for the big day. Here are some things you can do before and during the test to help you prepare.

Weeks Before the Test

You’ve probably heard this said a thousand times before, that practice makes perfect. Well, there is some truth to that saying. An obvious way to prepare for any test is to take practice tests whenever possible; a few weeks before your scheduled test date is a good time to start. If possible, try to work through a full test, in a quiet location, from start to finish. This will give you a great idea of what you can expect on the actual test day. Don’t worry if this is not possible though! Just doing a few practice problems a few days a week is a nice start, too.

Now is a great time to make a list of questions you may have about your upcoming test. Ask a parent, a teacher, an advisor, or even a friend who may have taken the same test already for help. Websites or test prep books and apps devoted to the SAT or ACT are useful tools you can use to get additional answers. Having your questions answered will put you at ease for test day and reduce stress.

Days Before the Test

Continue to become familiar with the SAT or ACT. Aside from working through a practice test or some practice questions, here is a list of test logistics you should keep in mind.

  • Know what types of questions will be on the test, and the quantity of each type of question. (E.g. multiple choice, quantitative comparison, grid-in, etc.)
  • Determine the average amount of time you will have to answer each question.
  • Know the directions for answering each question type. Not all tests or test sections involve basic multiple choice questions. Knowing what each option represents ahead of time will save precious minutes when you actually take the test.
  • Become familiar with the answer sheet used for the test. Know the acceptable ways to mark grid-in answers, especially those that may be in fraction or decimal form.
  • Know the calculator policy for the test. Some, none, or all sections of the test may allow for calculator use. Bring an acceptable calculator, preferably one you’ve practiced on, though a basic calculator tool may be provided for use if you don’t have one.
  • Remember, you do not need to know every formula by heart. Many geometry formulas are provided at the beginning of each test section. Know which formulas are provided, and use them as needed when you take the test.

Set aside a certain amount of time each day to answer practice questions. Now is also a good time to review with a friend or group of peers.

Day Before the Test

Do a quick review of the general information that will be covered on the SAT or ACT. Have confidence in your abilities and knowledge of the material. If you go in with a positive attitude, it will carry you a long way!

Get directions to the test center; find out where to park and what entrance to use to get to the testing area. Last but not least, get plenty of rest! All of these will help your nerves on the day of the test.

Also check out our blog post 3 ways to boost your SAT score without studying.

Day of the Test

Eat a well-balanced breakfast in the morning. Be prepared with your admission ticket, official photo ID, pencils, erasers, acceptable calculator, water bottle, and anything else you may need for the test. Know the policies for cell phone or electronic device usage. Keep in mind that use of these are restricted during testing time and may be limited or restricted in between testing sections. The last thing you want is for your scores to be cancelled simply because you did not know and adhere to the testing rules.

Be sure to arrive at the test site early enough to get settled and relax.

During the Test

Follow directions and read each question carefully. Re-read the question, if necessary, to get a better sense of what is being asked.

Answer easier questions first. These tend to appear in the beginning part of the test. Clues or hints sometimes appear in easier questions that may help you answer more difficult questions. Skip questions you are not sure of and come back to them if time permits. Don’t spend too much time on any one question. If you are stuck on a question after a few minutes, skip it and move on. If you have no idea what the answer to a question is, guess.

Break down complex problems into simpler parts. Answer one piece at a time. And remember to make sure you answer the question being asked. This is not always the same as just solving for x!

Concentrate. Stay focused. Think positively! The more prepared you are, the less you have to be stressed about when it’s time for you to take the SAT or ACT!