In this 3-part blog series, we’ll tap into the expertise of our Senior Tutor, Owen, for tips and guidelines on what to expect before and during your official test day. There are a number of things that students are often unaware of when they walk into the test room. What is the atmosphere like? Where should they put their belongings? What can students do to relax? We have answers to these questions and more.

The first installment of the series covers what students should do before their official test day.

The most important part of doing well on the ACT is what you do in the months leading up to the test: meeting regularly with your tutor, competing your homework, using practice tests to check your progress and identify weaknesses, etc. However, there are several things that you can do in the few days leading up to your exam that can maximize your score. Today’s blog will focus on these finishing touches that can ensure you do as well as possible on test day.

For most students, the day before your official test will be a Friday. If you have school projects due, get them finished early in the week. Spend your Friday like any other school day, and try to get home at a reasonable hour. Once you’re home, review a little—emphasis on little. A good guideline is probably about 30 minutes. If there’s one particular part of the test that you’ve focused the most on, you may want to complete a few practice problems from this section. Think about the most important overall principles that you and your tutor have discussed. These should be personalized, but I’d like to share a few possibilities for each section that many of my students have benefited from in the past.


  1. When in doubt, identify the main verb of a sentence and its subject. This will allow you to find what is essential to the sentence (the independent clause) and what is not essential (dependent clauses and phrases). From here, apply the punctuation rules you know that determine how these parts of sentences can be linked.
  2. All things equal, choose concise and straightforward answers. The shortest answer choice is often correct.


  1. Write all of your thinking down on the paper. Add as much info as possible to geometric figures, and double check that your answers are correct.
  2. If you’re stuck, try plugging in numbers for variables to see if that helps.


  1. Don’t stray too far from the passage. Make sure every answer choice is backed up by evidence from the passage.
  2. Avoid extreme answer choices. Choose neutral, middle-of-the-road answers.


  1. Focus on the data presented in the tables and graphs. Do minimal reading.

These are just a few possibilities; you can choose whatever you think will help you the most. If you take some time to remind yourself of a few broad techniques the night before your exam, you are more likely to approach the material in a methodical and calm way. You aren’t allowed to bring written notes into the exam, but you may want to write a few final thoughts down on a piece of paper to remind yourself on the morning of the exam.

Once you’re done reviewing, it’s time to take care of some logistical things. Follow these three easy steps to make your test day as stress-free as possible:

  1. Take some time to prepare the materials that you will take with you to the test center. Bring at least one bottle of water and a light snack. Make sure you’ve got plenty of sharpened, #2 pencils, and double check that your calculator batteries are charged. Put all of this together with your admissions ticket so that you won’t need to search for anything in the morning.
  2. Get to bed early! Being well rested is much more important than doing last-minute cramming.  There is no single, crucial piece of content that you are going to learn the night before the test that is going to make or break your score. However, if you are tired on test day, you might score significantly lower than you otherwise would have.
  3. Wake up early enough so that you have plenty of time to get ready and aren’t rushed. Eat a full breakfast and bring a snack with you to the test center.

The night before your ACT exam can be a stressful time. If you follow the advice in this blog, you’ll not only calm your nerves, you’ll also put yourself in the best position to maximize your score.

Good luck!

Keep an eye out for Part 2 of the What to Expect on Test Day blog series next week!