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Making the Most of Your SAT/ACT Test Day

At long last, your SAT or ACT test day is approaching. You’ve done all of the standardized test prep you can, reviewing practice questions and tips for taking standardized tests, and you’re probably about as ready as you’ll ever be to take the test. At this point, you’re probably still experiencing some anxiety, either in the form of eagerness to just be done with the test, or trepidation about the testing process and your ultimate results. Most students are likely feeling a combination of the two, which can make it hard to focus on anything other than the test booklet that soon awaits you. But before you arrive at the testing center to meet your fate, there are still some things you can do to make the most of your test day and maximize your chances of receiving the best possible standardized test score, whether you’re taking the SAT or the ACT.

  • Prepare Your Book Bag

    The night before the exam, organize your book bag. Make sure you have extra pencils in case one breaks during the exam. Pack a bottle of water to keep your brain hydrated during the test - no one thinks efficiently when they are distracted by thirst. If you are driving to the test, make sure your car keys are in a location that is easy to find. By avoiding routine morning hassles you will find that you are calmer before taking the test, prepared to come up with solutions to the problems that you face, and more confident when you sit down to begin.
  • Beauty Sleep

    It is critical that you get at least 8 hours of sleep the night before the exam. Testing can be tedious, and often just spending a few hours staring at glaring white paper with little black print will leave even the most well rested individual exhausted. Go to sleep early, and wake up a few hours before the exam. It also wouldn't hurt to go for a brisk walk in the morning before you head off to take your exam. You want to be as awake and assertive as possible when you arrive to take your exam. The morning of the test it is tempting to sleep in, however, but rolling out of bed half an hour before the test launches is simply not advisable.
  • Brain Food

    Your mother has probably been on your case about this for at least 10 years, but let's reiterate. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If for no other reason than to see a smile on mom's face, eat breakfast on test day. The last thing you want is a low blood sugar blackout when you are half way through the math portion of the test. If you are a coffee drinker, don't forget your cup o' joe the morning of the test, as you could end up with a painfully distracting headache.
  • Review Your Notes

    Chances are you won't learn any pivotal information in the hour or so before the test, but it never hurts to review some of the vocabulary words that you may encounter before the test and some of the math formulas that you expect to see. This is not the time to cram, but it is the time to slowly maneuver your mind into test taking mode.
  • Dress for Success

    Keep in mind that the morning of the ACT/SAT, you are going in to perform. While you can probably get away with taking the test in your pajamas, by doing so you are not establishing the correct mindset. These tests are in fact, serious matters. Their outcome typically will impact the amount of scholarship offers that you receive and the schools that accept you. By making the effort to get up and get dressed you are preparing yourself to succeed.
  • Arrive Early

    Get to the exam 20 minutes early. Sometimes the tests are administered somewhere other than your school. If you are unfamiliar with the facility that you will be testing in, allowing yourself time to find your classroom and settle in is essential. Rushing in a minute before the exam is unsettling and often depletes your confidence before you even arrive.
  • Manage Your Time Wisely

    If you don't know an answer, move on, and then guess as a last resort after you've finished answering the questions to which you know the answer. Don't panic when you encounter the first question that you cannot answer because likely, there will be more just like it. If you have time, move on to other questions; don't allow not knowing the answer to one question to influence the rest of your exam. Build your confidence answering questions that you are more certain of, and then revisit any that were problematic. It is typically better to make an educated guess than to leave an answer blank, so keep this in mind while completing your exam.

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