ACT & SAT Test Day Tips

It's best to prepare for the ACT or SAT for several weeks, even months, before you take the test. Familiarizing yourself with the content and format of the test will help decrease your test anxiety and prepare you to score as high as possible. Consider these tips for a great test day!



  • Answer every question. Yes, even the hard ones. You won't be penalized for guessing on the ACT.  The NEW SAT coming out in 2016 will also not penalize you for guessing.


  • Use POE before you guess. Process of Elimination that is. Each question will have at least one answer that's way out there. Physically cross off that answer so you won't be tempted to use it, and you'll up your odds of guessing correctly. Then go back and see if you can cross off at least one more.


  • Start easy. Answer all of the easy questions first, then move on to the difficult ones. Usually, if you answer the questions in order, this is easy to do because they are ranked from easiest to most difficult. However, if you're one of those people who finds reading the longer passages easier than the shorter passages, start there, where it's easiest for you.


  • Memorize the directions. During the test, you won't get extra time to read the directions, so if you take five minutes to figure out what to do, that's five fewer minutes you'll have to get points.


  • Don't doodle. On the answer sheet, that is. The ACT is graded by a machine; if your chicken scratch interferes with the reading mechanism, you could miss out on points. Keep the oval sheet as clean as is possible.


  • Erase completely. Bring two erasers, one for the heavy-duty erasing you may need to do and another clean eraser to fix up your ovals completely. You don't want erasure marks mucking up your answers and causing you to lose points.


  • Pace yourself. You'll have a little less than 30 seconds to answer each question, so keep that in mind. Don't spend three minutes staring off into space or re-reading a longer passage; stay focused.


  • Bring a watch. Archaic, yes, but since you won't be able to have your cell phone on you, bring a watch. There's no guarantee you'll be testing in a room with a working clock.


  • Reconsider the obvious. If an answer seems too easy, it may just be. Be sure to read every answer choice and select the best possible answer. The obvious choice may be a distracter.


  • Don't second-guess. If you marked B for question 18, there was probably a good reason for it, so don't go back and change it, unless you've found information in a later part of the test to disprove your original theory. Statistics prove that your first guess is usually the best one.


  • Come back to a toughie. If you're stuck between two answer choices, circle the question and come back to it with fresh eyes after you've answered the other questions. Remember you have to pace yourself.


  • Cross-check ovals. Every five questions or so, double-check your answer sheet to make sure you haven't skipped an oval. There's nothing worse than getting to the end of a test and realizing you missed filling in an oval somewhere.


  • Bring your own calculator. The test center will not provide you with one, so bring an approved calculator for easier math work. (All the questions can be answered without one, but bring one anyway.)


  • Outline before you write. If you're taking the essay, be sure to take five out of the thirty minutes and plan before you write. It isn't a waste of time; the scorers are looking for well-organized essays. The best way to get one is to plan ahead with either an outline or graphic organizer.


  • Practice. You've heard it before, but it's really the truth. Take your practice tests with your Test Prep BootCamp tutor and utilize the online explainer videos, or take a Test Prep BootCamp group course. You'll gain confidence and a lot of extra points by doing so.


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