The ACT is just ahead, but don’t freak out. While you are likely ready to just get it over with, we’ve got some tips for things you can do in the final days before (and the day of) the test to make it as smooth an experience as possible.
Before the Test
1. Gather Materials
Make sure to gather all of the items you’ll need in a bag or backpack the night before, so you won’t have to scramble around the morning of looking for extra batteries! Here’s a list for reference:
* indicates optional items
- Several #2 pencils (sharpened)
- An eraser, if the ones on your pencils aren’t any good*
- A calculator (not the one on your phone!) -- any basic scientific or graphing calculator is fine. If you have any more questions about which calculators are acceptable, ACT has a list of all acceptable brands and models
- Extra batteries for the calculator (Note, you’ll have to ask for permission to access them as they cannot be on your desk during the test. You might just want to put in new ones to be safe.)*
- Acceptable Photo ID (Driver’s License or School ID should be fine)
- Admission ticket
- A watch (no smart watch or any watch that allows you to record things)*
2. Know Where You’re Going
If you’re taking the test at your high school, this one should be a no-brainer. However, as some students take the ACT at a school that is not their own, make sure you know where you are going and how long it will take to get there. Google Maps is your friend here. And, if you are driving yourself, make sure you allow time to park.
3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
This one should be rather self-explanatory. You should aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep prior to the test. Considering how early the test is, this involves going to sleep before midnight. A challenge for many high school students, I’m sure.
4. Don’t Try to Cram
The ACT isn’t the same as trying to study for your AP Biology test in a one night (though this is also not recommended). The ACT is not a test for which you can really cram study. Take the evening off and try to relax. If you’re super anxious, you can spend a little time reviewing concepts rather than trying to teach yourself new ones or reviewing problems you’ve done before. Accept that all you can do between now and the test is to prepare yourself emotionally (control your nerves) and physically (be rested and eat well). The time has passed for expanding your knowledge base. And that’s okay. There’s likely going to be another test that you can take after this one.
5. Eat a Hearty Breakfast
Nobody wants to have to deal with a rumbling stomach, so eat a nice healthy breakfast the morning of the test. Don’t drink too much liquid, though. You don’t want to have to run off to the bathroom in the middle of a section (not that that’s even allowed).
During the Test
1. Stay Calm, but Move Efficiently
Take deep breaths and stay calm, but don’t move through the test at a too leisurely pace: it still is a timed test after all. Remember, your attitude is within your control. Walk in tomorrow confident about what you know. Have a plan for how you’ll deal with a problem that trips you up (hint, move on to the next problem fairly quickly and don’t let one problem sink your performance on a whole section).
2. Bubble Carefully
You don’t want to lose points for silly mistakes such as filling in the bubbles for the wrong section, or copying your answer over to the wrong question. As silly as it may sound, I personally know people who got scores much lower than expected because they filled out the wrong section or bubbled their responses in, off by one line!
Tips for Not Getting Asked to Leave Early
1. Arrive on Time
You really, really don’t want to be late because they most likely won’t let you in. And you won’t get your money back. So set two alarms if you have to! And, make sure to bring your ticket and photo ID. If you don’t, you won’t even be able to enter the testing room.
2. Turn your Phone OFF
Off. This doesn’t mean silent. It doesn’t mean vibrate. It means turn your phone off. Even better, if you’re driving yourself you should leave your phone in the car. Of course there are some students who have to be picked up and need their phones, so if that’s you, make sure you turn your phone completely off. Why? Well if your phone even makes the slightest sound (and Siri can unexpectedly start speaking sometimes!) you will be asked to leave the exam and your scores will be cancelled. And no, you won’t get a refund. Even during breaks, do not turn on or even touch your phone. If you get caught, you will be asked to leave as well.
3. Put Your Pencil Down
When the proctor says “put your pencils down”, put your pencil down!! Although it may seem harmless to finish bubbling that one last bubble, you CAN get kicked out for not putting your pencil down when told to.
4. Don’t Cheat (or even look like you’re cheating)
Please don’t cheat during this test. You will likely get caught and asked to leave. And make sure to not look like you’re cheating either. Don’t glance around at other student’s tests or engage in any kind of suspicious behavior that will make the proctor think that you’re cheating. Whether or not cheating was your intention, you will still be asked to leave.