Test Readiness

Before the SAT & ACT - General Preparation

Read, read, and read some more.
Studies of high-scoring students show that those who do well on the reading sections of the SAT and ACT read significantly more than those who achieve average scores. Regular reading over a long time improves your vocabulary, your reading speed, and the ease with which you will be able to answer questions about reading passages.

Review your basic arithmetic, algebra, and geometry.
Many math questions touch on topics that you may have studied several years ago.

Taking practice tests is the best way to get a feel for how the various questions are posed. It's important to review your mistakes and understand why you got those questions wrong. A tutor or teacher can be a great help here. Published books are with explanatory answer keys are a partial substitute, but the quality of those books is uneven. Books alone also don't do a very good job helping you prepare for the SAT essay or ACT Writing Test.

Learn the directions.
The types of questions that appear on the SAT and ACT are fixed. You shouldn't need to waste time during the test figuring out what you are supposed to do. Register early. Locations do fill up, and if you try to take the test on a stand-by basis, you may not get in.


The Week Before the Test

Catch up on your sleep.
It's probably obvious that you should get a good night's sleep the evening before the test, but many students subsist on inadequate sleep. If you regularly get much less than eight hours of sleep a night, you are probably running a sleep deficit, which you can't make up in a single night. For the week before the test, give up those distractions, finish your homework early, and set yourself an early bedtime.

Warm up your brain.
Get up early each morning for the week before the test and practice with real SAT and ACT problems before school. This will accustom your body and mind to working early in the morning.


The Day Before the Test

Assemble everything you'll need on test day:

  • Your registration ticket
  • Photo ID (student ID with photo, driver license, or valid passport)
  • Four or five No. 2 pencils and a good eraser
  • A permitted calculator that you're familiar with (See list of permitted calculators for the ACT and SAT)
  • A watch (remember to silence your mobile phone during the test)
  • Water and snacks for the break

Don't put this off until just before you run out the door on test day. You're likely to forget something.

Know where you're going.
Make sure you know the directions to the testing center and how long it will take you to get there. If you're not taking the test at your school, you may want to drive the route in advance.


On Test Day

Eat a good breakfast.
High-protein foods and carbohydrates such as bananas, raisins, and power bars, and the like will keep you from fading halfway through the test. Note that you are not allowed to bring snacks into the testing room, although you may eat them only during breaks.

Dress in layers.
Test-center rooms can be very hot or cold, and on weekends, the custodial staff may not be available to adjust the temperature.

Allow plenty of time to get to the test center.
You will not be allowed in if you arrive after the test starts, but you shouldn't cut it close. Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before the test starts so you will not feel rushed and out of breath.

You've studied. You've prepared. Now knock it out of the park!