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Top Strategies for ACT Test Day

Amidst all that you're doing before the big day to ensure a top score, don't forget to consider what you can do on your actual test day that will help you succeed.

Elizabeth Hoyt

August 17, 2018

Top Strategies for ACT Test Day
You’re signed up for the ACT. You know what you need to study, made a schedule and are sticking to it! You’ve devoted a lot of time to the ACT! Amidst all that you're doing before the big day to ensure a top score, don't forget to consider what you can do on your actual test day that will help you succeed.
  1. Relax - You've got this! Between all of the classes, the study schedule and the practice tests, you are fully prepared for exam day. Don't get caught up in worry. Having some text anxiety is normal, and even helpful, as it allows you to realize how important the ACT is, but too much will impede your function come test time. Just be confident in all that you’ve done to prepare. Your abilities will shine!
  2. Be Prepared - The night before your ACT, pack a bag with everything you will need for test day. Bring an acceptable form of ID, your test ticket, an approved calculator, pencils and snacks. Make sure your snacks are easy to eat and that they don’t need refrigerated. Apples, pretzels, granola bars are great options. Take plenty of water, too! Eating a healthy breakfast filled with protein, like eggs or yogurt, before you step out the front door will keep you feeling full until the test’s first break. And leave the house in plenty of time to get to the test center!

  3. Pace yourself - The test proctor will keep track of the time for each section. Don't worry about doing so yourself. You should keep the clock on the back of your mind through each section, but don’t let it distract you. If you’ve done your prep work, you know how it feels to make it through each section in time. On the reading section, only devote 5 minutes to each passage and on the science section, move on to the next passage if one seems too difficult.

  4. Follow your game plan- You've likely taken several practice tests in order to become familiar with the test format for each section of the ACT. Remember what you learned. If a specific type of question is difficult for you, take a stab at it, but don't fret over it. If you've developed a method for taking notes on reading or science passages, stick to it! With all the preparation you’ve done, you know what works for you.

  5. If you don’t know, guess - There is no penalty for wrong answers on the ACT. You only get credit for right answers. That means that you should never leave a question blank. Even if you have no idea what the question is even asking, fill in an answer bubble. You might end up being right and get credit for that question!

What you do in preparation for the ACT is a great indication of what you will do on your test day. Here are five test taking strategies you can incorporate into your daily study schedule that will help you as you take the ACT, or any future exam:
  1. Listen to your gut - Don’t second-guess yourself, particularly if you’ve been stuck on a problem for over a minute. Read the question, choose an answer and move on. You can mark troublesome questions and return to them only if you have time at the end of the section.

  2. Use your resources- You won’t be permitted to use any scratch paper on the ACT, but the test booklet is entirely up for grabs. You can write all over it! Take notes in the reading and science sections and cross out answers that you know are wrong. Mark questions you’d like to take a second look at and write out math problems.

  3. Get in your zone - You’ll hear other students turn the first page before you’re done with the first question. On a different test, someone might get up to sharpen a pencil. Another person might be hacking up a lung. Don’t let any of this bother you! Focus on your own test. Other students have different test-taking strategies, or they may be taking a different exam than you. Don’t compare yourself to them! Learn to ignore them.

  4. Manage your time - Know how much time you’ve been given on each section and keep that in mind when hemming and hawing over answer choices. Realize how far along you should be when half of the time is up, and always leave a few minutes at the end of a section to review the questions you marked as more difficult. You may choose to wear a wristwatch (turn off all alarms on your watch for the ACT!) or just watch the room’s clock.

  5. Know your options - Before you mark an answer, read every single choice. Even if option A is most certainly the best answer and you’re sure of it, read options B, C, D and E. You don’t want to miss the ‘All of the above’ or the ‘Choice A and C’ options. Read every single answer for every single question. After you know what choices are available, you can make the best one!

By the time your ACT test day arrives, you know what to do. Trust in the methods you’ve come up with throughout your studying and put them to use! ACT test day is your opportunity to show off all of your hard work!

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