Tips for Your ACT Test Day

by Ben M.

Studying for the ACTs can take a lot out of you. You feel like you spend all of your free time studying, and you feel like you've studied so much that you can rattle off answers to your practice ACT in your sleep.

No matter how prepared you think you are for the test, that confidence can slowly disappear as test day approaches. But instead of worrying and panicing about the test, you need to try and keep a clear head. Use the following tips to ensure that taking your ACT is stress free.

1. Wake up early…but not too early.

You may not know it, but your brain actually needs some time to start functioning properly after you wake up. If your test is scheduled for 9am, you can't wake up at 8:50 and expect to do well on the test. To be safe, you should try and wake up at least one hour before your test is scheduled. This gives your brain time to wake up and prepare itself for the day.

2. Eat breakfast.

The worst thing that you can do is to test on an empty stomach. You will spend more time focusing on the fact that you're hungry, which may even force you to rush through the test just to grab a snack. Even if you're too nervous to eat  breakfast, it's important that you put something in your stomach. Try to eat a bagel or a piece of toast to fill your stomach, but if possible, a hearty breakfast full of protein will help keep you energized and keep your brain functioning well throughout the duration of the test.

3. Show up early.

By shooing up early, you will have time to set up all of your tools on your desk, including pencils, erasers, water, calculator and anything else you're allowed to bring with you. Plus, by arriving early, you won't be adding any additional stress to yourself . It's also a good idea to place all of your tools and admin forms in your bag the night before your ACT so that you're not rushing in the morning trying to find everything.

4. Read the instructions.

When it comes time to take the test, spend a few minutes reading the instructions carefully. Even slipping up on one word could influence the way you take the test. Make sure you know how much time you have to complete the section, and if you have a hard time understanding the instructions, ask the test administrator for help.

5. Pace yourself.

You are not going to spend the same amount of time on each question, but you still want to pace yourself. Don't spend ten minutes on one question. If you are having a hard time with a specific question, skip it and come back to it later. Missing one question is not going to have that big of an impact on your score, so you are better off skipping one question than wasting the entire duration of the test figuring it out, only to miss answering all of the remaining questions.

6. Make sure you're filling in the right bubbles.

You always need to make sure that you are filling in the bubble for the right question. If you skip a question, you may forget to skip a line on your answer sheet. If this occurs, it can have a major impact on your overall score. Always take the few seconds to ensure the number of the bubble and the number of the question matches.

7. Fill the bubble in completely.

You also need to make sure that you are completely filling in the bubble. Your tests are scanned through a computer to determine your score. If you don't fill the bubbles in all the way, the computer won't be able to read your answers, and you will be given a lower grade.

This is also true for erasing. If you had to erase an answer, make sure that you thoroughly erase it. If these computers see two answers for the same question, they're going to mark it wrong.

8. When in doubt, guess.

If you are having trouble with a question, you should try to eliminate as many wrong answers as you can and then guess between the remaining answers. If you are running out of time, it is always better to guess on the remaining questions just to have an answer.

If you don't have enough time, you simply need to fill in the blanks. Instead of going all over the place with your guesses, stick to answering with the same letter. For example, if you have 10 questions left that you won't have time to answer, pick a letter and stick with it for the remaining bubbles. If you chose C, then bubble in C for the remaining 10 questions. You have a better chance of getting answers right if you use the same letter than if you were to bounce all over.

Taking the ACT can be stressful, but these tips will make your experience less stressful and will help you focus on the task at hand.

This post was written by Ben M.

Ben Myers is a college English professor.  He is currently grading a huge stack of Animal Farm essays.  In his spare time, Ben likes to study about learning methods and learning disabilities.

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