The week before the ACT can be a little bit nerve-wracking. Whether you prepared fully and well or hardly cracked a book, the week before you may feel on edge about the looming exam.
To help you get through it all with less stress and higher ACT scores, here are 8 things I recommend you do the week before the ACT to set you up for success on test day.
1. Accept that you are where you are with test prep.
If you prepared well and have seen improvement in practice, trust the work you’ve done. Don’t change a thing. Keep on using the tactics and strategies that have worked for you in practice. As I often say to my test prep students, your strategies in practice aren’t training wheels. They are the wheels. If you ditch them, you won’t go anywhere.
If you didn’t prepare, don’t cram. You are where you are. Use your time to get a sense of what to expect on test day, but the urge to cram. It won’t get you anywhere.
Need a few quick tips to help you get through the ACT? Check out Episode 11 of the College Checklist Podcast.
2. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
It might sound silly, but exercising during the week can actually help you on test day. It will help you blow off stress, maintain your focus, and sleep more soundly. It also gives a nice little boost to your immune system so you can ward off any last minute bug that so many of my students seem to catch right before their ACT test dates.
3. Eat an extra helping of veggies or fruit at each meal this week.
Similar to item #2, this tip can help you keep sickness at bay and boost your energy. It’s important to do everything you can to feel your best on test day!
4. Go to bed earlier than usual this week.
The fact of the matter is that most of my students are running on very little sleep these days. High school can be tough and all-nighters are not uncommon. This can be especially harmful during a test week because, if you keep your usual night-owl habits all week and then try to rest up the night before the test, you’ll have a hard time falling asleep.
Try to adjust your bedtime to a slightly earlier time this week so that you won’t have trouble falling asleep the night before the exam. An extra hour each night will do wonders for your score!
5. On Friday, collect all of the items you’ll need in one place.
The last thing you need the morning of your exam is to realize your printer has run out of ink and you can’t print your admission ticket. Set out everything on the checklist below on Friday night so that you can grab it and go on Saturday morning.
You’ll need the following on test day:
- Your ACT admission ticket
- An official photo ID
- 4 sharpened non-mechanical #2 pencils
- A good eraser
- Your calculator (with an extra set of batteries)
- A few healthy snacks (and maybe some dark chocolate to keep you going!)
- A bottle of water
To access your admission ticket and to see a list of approved calculators, visit the ACT website.
6. Wake up 30 minutes early on test day.
We want to keep your stress level as low as possible on your ACT test date. Save your energy for the exam. Waking up early ensures that you have plenty of time to eat breakfast and get to your test site with no hassle.
It also helps ensure your brain will be more alert by the time the test begins. If you’ve been resting up all week (see #4), an extra 30 minutes of sleep won’t be as hard to forgo!
7. Eat a good breakfast the morning of the test.
This is imperative. I can’t tell you how many times I meet with students post-practice test and I can tell by lower-than-average-scores that they didn’t eat. If anything is amiss in the score, “Did you eat?” is always my first question.
It might seem silly, but lack of food is often the culprit of lower-than-expected scores.
Your brain is an organ. It needs food to maintain focus. The ACT is a lot like a marathon. You wouldn’t run 26.2 miles without any sustenance. The same thinking should apply on test day so eat up! Scrambled eggs and oatmeal with a side of fresh fruit makes a great, filling start on test day. It will keep you powering through but won’t weigh you down.
Avoid breakfasts with too much fat or lots of refined sugar. The former will make you feel groggy; the latter will pep you up initially but cause you to crash mid-exam.
Oh, and don’t forget to drink 2 glasses of water the night before the exam and at least 1 glass of water the morning of. Hydration is key, but don’t overdo it because…well…you know…
8. Breathe! You’ve got this!
No matter how you prepared or didn’t, you’re going to take the ACT. Take a deep breath and trust yourself to deliver the very best score you’re capable of on that particular test date.
Good luck to you, and may higher scores be yours! 🙂
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