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Test Day Dos and Don'ts

Test Day Dos and Don'ts

By Kay Peterson, Ph.D.

January 22, 2013

ACT, SAT, PSAT – little words that cause big anxiety. If you’re getting ready to apply for college, then you know what these tests can mean to your applications. Follow these simple test-taking strategies to get your angst under control.

Know your test. Make sure you know the format and scoring standards of your test ahead of time. Take a sample test before the big day to get a sense of the pacing and level of difficulty. For more advanced preparation, books, software and prep courses are available.

Check and double-check the location and time of your test. If you miss your test date, you may not be able to take the test in time for college admissions. Also, be sure you know exactly what you need to bring with you (e.g. your I.D., admissions ticket, calculator, etc.).

Give your body what it needs. Get plenty of sleep the night before and make time for a well-balanced breakfast. Your brain will thank you.

Provide for your own comfort and convenience:

  • Arrive early. Locate bathrooms and drinking fountains and make yourself at home.
  • Dress comfortably. Be sure to bring a sweater or jacket in case the room is cold.
  • Bring a snack. An energy recharge during breaks can really help.
  • Be prepared for emergencies. Bring extra pencils and erasers just in case.


Read the directions and test questions carefully. This is especially important for multiple-choice questions in which you may be asked to choose the best answer (i.e. all answers could be correct; only one is best).

Pace yourself. Pay attention to how many sections you must complete and allot a reasonable amount of time for each section. If you get stuck, move on. You can always return to the more difficult questions once you’ve answered the easy ones.

Before time is up, review your work. Make sure you’ve marked your answers clearly and completely and that your responses on the answer sheet correspond to the correct questions. Mismatch the questions and answers by just one space and you’ll miss all the questions.

Your entrance exam is your chance to shine! Relax, prepare and get ready to go in there and do your best.


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