“Twas the night before the SAT/ACT, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a computer mouse.”
The night before the SAT or ACT can be an incredibly stressful time. The inevitable is upon you, and the pressure of the moment starts to feel too real. That’s when we step in. This article is designed to give you tips and pointers on how to best approach the night before and wake up ready to tackle the test.
What to do the Night Before the SAT or ACT
The first thing you should do is relax. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but it will help you concentrate on the things within your control. One of the simplest relaxation techniques is through breathing. A controlled inhale and exhale can calm your mind and bring your awareness to the present. Try Dr. Andrew Weil's 4-7-8 breathing technique for relaxation. You could also put on some relaxing music to set the tone for your evening.
Once you’re calm and focused, take care of all the logistics.
1. Pack everything you’ll need for test day:
Test ticket 🎫
Photo ID 🆔
Sharpened #2 pencils – bring as many as possible ✏️
A calculator with extra batteries – no surprises! 🔋
Water bottle – stay hydrated 💧
Snacks – stay fueled 🍎🍌🍊
- A wristwatch – keep track of time right at your desk ⌚
2. Choose comfortable clothes, and make sure to bring layers in case your testing room is too hot or cold.
3. Prepare material to read during breakfast (newspaper, magazine, novel, online article), so you can warm up your brain for the Reading section.
4. Set multiple alarms to wake up in the morning. ⏰
5. Make sure you know exactly where the testing center is and how to get there.
Once you’ve covered all the logistics, it’s time to eat! Your pre-test dinner should be balanced, nutritious and filling. Try to include leafy greens, complex carbs and healthy proteins and fats in your meal.
After dinner, find an activity to keep your mind off of the test. Watch a movie, read a book, listen to music or find whatever it is that puts you in a positive state of mind. Don’t try to squeeze in any last-minute cramming; doing so will only add to your test anxiety. Trust that the test preparation you have done up to this point is sufficient, and give your brain a break. You’ll need to channel all that brainpower into the test.
About an hour before your usual bedtime, you should wind down and make your way to bed. Trust me, you’ll want the extra time to fall asleep. Turn off all screens (computer, phone, TV), and make sure your room is as dark and quiet as possible. Wear earplugs and a sleep mask if necessary. If you're having trouble falling asleep, try taking a shower or drinking a cup of chamomile tea or warm milk. Also, don’t forget to breathe into a state of relaxation. I’d advise against taking any medications or pills to fall asleep, unless they are part of your normal sleep routine. You don’t want to put anything in your body that you don’t know how you’ll respond to.
Each of these tips is within your control. If you follow them carefully, you should sleep like a baby and wake up refreshed and ready to go the next morning.
At this point, you’ve done all that you can. Trust yourself, and tackle the test with the confidence of someone who knows he or she is in control of the situation. Hakuna matata!
Jon G. is originally from Houston, Texas. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Harvard University and is currently one of the resident English gurus at Elite Prep Los Angeles. Nothing makes him more proud and pumped up than watching his students succeed. When it comes to hitting the books, Jon recommends starting early and studying in increments to avoid burnout. He's a huge basketball fan, loves green tea, and his favorite vocabulary word is "seditious."