These ACT Test DOs and DON'Ts will have you prepared in no time!

Approaching the ACT with concrete strategies in mind will allow you to strut into the test room with more confidence than Amy Schumer with a brain injury. Feeling pretty on test day, though, probably won't get you very far. (Instead, you'll just get confused about whether that person next to you is checking you out or cheating off of you.) Feeling smart about how you take the test and study for it, on the other hand, could win you some valuable points with the ACT overlords. 

Whether you've studied like crazy or just put in a few hours here and there, these are a few tiny but might, things you can do right before test time to help you knock it out of the park. Keep these tips in mind as test day approaches.


Let's get the DON'Ts out of the way first.

DON'T be a zombie. 

No one likes skipping meals, unless it's Nana Shmoop's liver and onions, so why would you make that mistake on test day? So, this means you should plan to get a full night of sleep and chow down on a well-rounded breakfast before heading off to take the exam.

We know you have to get up early on a Saturday, and we know you're probably going to be a little wired, but please, have a balanced breakfast before you leave. It doesn't need to be a twelve-course tasting menu of the finest French fare, but your brain needs it like your car needs gas. We want you to rip through this test like a winning NASCAR driver, not stall halfway through and spinout to the side of the track because your brain needs nutrients. Everyone shows up to watch the wrecks, but trust us: you don't want to be one of the cars on fire when college admissions is at stake.

Also, we've slogged through our fair share of early morning classes, so learn from our mistakes. Get good sleep starting two nights before the test. Seriously. Functioning on eight hours of sleep is so much nicer than functioning on any less. Your synapses will thank you when they're not sluggishly battling to fire off answers for you.

DON'T be a statue. 

This one is along the same lines as that "don't be a zombie" thing. You're limited to the one square foot that your test chair encompasses, so you won't be able to have a dance party or anything, but try to move around as much as you can. Shake out the limbs, stretch, whatever. Just do what you gotta do to keep the blood flowing without maiming or otherwise distracting the other test-takers. Maiming is frowned upon, for all you reckless pencil tappers.

The ACT® is a test of skill and knowledge that you already have. That part is great. However, that doesn't mean you should roll up out of bed on test day prepared with nothing but your morning breath. To truly conquer the exam and score as high as you possibly can, you need to know it inside and out, and to do that, you will assuredly need to practice. So...

That brings us to our list of DOs!

DO practice, practice, practice. 

How does that saying go? Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Louis Armstrong wasn't just born awesome at jazz. Michael Jordan didn't just strap on tiny baby Nike sneakers and start dunking as soon as he could toddle (or did he?). If you want to be good at something, you have to practice. (Pssst. We can help.)

DO come prepared. 

What to bring:

  • Your printed admission ticket— after you register for the test, you will need to print it. If you lose it before test day, don't worry. You can log in to your account and print another one before the test.
  • A photo ID—preferably a driver's license or student ID.
  • No. 2 pencils—that one's pretty self-explanatory, we think… 
  • A calculator—check the ACT website to make sure your model isn't prohibited. 
  • Remember, cell phones are not allowed. Back in the cretaceous period before smart phones, people used "watches" to keep track of time. You might consider bringing one to help pace yourself.

DO mark up the test booklet. 

Take notes. We're not saying you should be writing love sonnets on the ACT exam. In fact, we're definitely saying that you should not do that. However, it is a fantastic idea to annotate the margins of the booklet with key facts, figures, ideas, or vocabulary that may come in handy. Basically, be an active reader. Actively reading a text is a good way to keep yourself focused and in tune, even when some of the inevitably dull passages turn up.

DO guess intelligently and with purpose. 

You're not penalized for guessing, but before you go crazy with that No. 2 pencil and tempt the hands of fate or good conscience, try to narrow down the possibilities. There are usually at least one or two answers that are definitely, no doubt about it, incontrovertibly wrong. They're "duds," if you will. If you can get rid of these dud choices like the vegetables you so skillfully avoided as a child, possibly leading to the dog's inexplicable obesity, you'll have a much better chance of guessing correctly.

DO keep calm and carry on. 

On test day, relaxation is key. We know that's easier said than done. There's actual strategy involved here, too. Take it easy and give yourself plenty of time to wake up, get ready, and meander (as opposed to rush maniacally) to the test center. 

Make sure your mode of transportation is reliable. We always take extra precaution with Papa Shmoop. Even though we remind him when we need to leave, he tends to lose track of time, and then yells at us to jump in the car when we're already five minutes late.

DO stay positive. 

We're not saying that you have to be Little Miss Sunshine. You already know that tests are not always the most thrilling of adventures, so we're not going to spit in your face and tell you it's raining. Still, if you focus on how torturous this test is going to be and how badly you're going to do on it, chances are your experience will be really torturous and horrible and you may do badly (self-fulfilling prophecy, anyone?). Belief affects behavior, simple as that. 

So, think positively. Leave little sticky notes all over your house reminding yourself of how awesome you are, give yourself a pep talk as you're driving to the exam, and even try smiling while you're taking it. 


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