What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

13 Tips for ACT Test Day

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You’ve studied. You’ve stressed. You’ve learned and reviewed. Now comes the fated day that can fill students with a mix of anticipation, excitement, or maybe even dread: ACT test day. Your ACT scores can help you stand out for colleges and even help you get scholarships or differentiate yourself on a job application. Before you walk out the door and into the testing center, keep reading for a few tips and tricks to help you ace the  test.

Your ACT test day should be viewed in four sections

In order to give more specific advice, this blog post will look at the ACT testing day in four distinct sections:

  • Before you leave your house
  • At the test center
  • During the test
  • After the test.

Before you leave your house on ACT test day

1. First of all, be sure to finish your studying for the test the night before you take it.

When you wake up in the morning, you don’t want to have to be worrying about dangling modifiers or trigonometric equations before you even eat your breakfast. It is important to leave your mind time to relax, decompress, and process all the information that you’ve been studying. If there are any formulas or last minute tips that you want to be sure you’re able to remember, write these down on a piece of paper that you can bring with you and look at on your way to the testing center—but remember, you cannot use this piece of paper during the exam.


2. Be sure to get plenty of sleep the night before you take the ACT.

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of coming into school without having had a full night’s sleep, you know how hard it can be to keep your eyes open and focus on precalculus or U.S. history. You certainly don’t want this to be the case during a high-stakes standardized test. Try to get at least eight hours of sleep, and be sure to factor in the time that it might take you to fall asleep and the time you might lose as a result of nervousness over the exam.


3. If you’re particularly worried about being well-rested enough for the exam, it can help to plan out how early you will need to wake up and then count your sleep-cycles backwards so that you will wake up feeling refreshed.

You’re probably familiar with the groggy, exhausted, anvils-taped-to-my-eyelids feeling of waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle. You want to try and avoid this on the morning of the test, if at all possible. The website sleepyti.me can be helpful in terms of determining when you will be in the middle of a deep sleep and when you will be easily woken up.


4. Plan out your outfit the night before the exam.

It should be something comfortable—you don’t want to be freezing cold because you decided to wear your favorite crop top or itchy because you wore the wool sweater that your great grandmother knitted you. It should also be something professional as well (you definitely don’t want to show up to take the ACT in your pajamas). Showing up in a professional outfit or an outfit that you really like can help build your confidence and make you feel more prepared to take the test. Lay out your outfit on the night before the exam so that you can just wake up and get dressed first thing in the morning. Take a shower if you usually do or if it helps you get started with your day. Also be sure to pack a bag filled with #2 pencils, a calculator, your testing ticket, and your ID the night before.


5. Make sure that you stick to your morning routine the morning of the test so that your brain isn’t busy making a bunch of decisions.

You should be walking into the testing center with a fresh mind. It also might be helpful to read something light and easy beforehand to get your brain warmed up a little bit.


6. For some students, it is helpful to have a standardized testing ritual.

Before a big test, you might want to think of something specific that you could do for good luck, such as wearing a favorite pair of socks to the testing center, listening to your favorite song, or saying a special mantra before taking the exam. While this “good luck charm” doesn’t have anything to do with the actual test, it can be nice to do something special that will make you feel comfortable and boost your confidence.


At the testing center

7. Arrive to the testing center early and go to the bathroom.

You don’t want to have to rush to the testing center in case there is traffic, and you certainly don’t want to be distracted while taking the exam because you need to use the bathroom. It will be helpful to use the bathroom before the exam, so if you do need to go during a break, you will know where it is and the fastest way to get to it.


8. If you have last-minute questions, consult your sheet on which you wrote down last minute tips.

Don’t strain yourself too much trying to memorize, though—chances are, you already know your stuff, and if you don’t, you probably won’t remember it if you try to memorize it minutes before the exam. Rather than scrambling to take in information at the last minute, it is more important that you get in the right mindset to take the test and remain calm and composed.


During the test

9. Although they may seem basic and straightforward, pay attention to your test proctor when he or she reads the rules before you officially begin taking the exam.

Although you’re probably already familiar with them at this point, listening to your proctor will help mentally prepare you for the test and wake up your mind. Plus, sometimes the proctor will actually give some helpful tips for taking the test!


10. Bring a cold bottle of water with you—while you can’t actually eat or drink anything while you’re taking the exam, you can drink and snack during breaks.

Staying hydrated will perk you up, as tiredness is often a result of dehydration. Make sure you don’t drink too much water, though, because you don’t want to have to use the bathroom in the middle of the exam!


11. Utilize your breaks during the exam efficiently.

Change up the pace so that your body and mind can sustain themselves for the next section of the exam—stretch, go to the bathroom, look out the window, or eat a snack!


After the test

12. When you are done taking the ACT, immediately write down any areas of difficulty that you encountered.

Even though you will get a detailed score report that will tell you the areas on which you did well on and which ones you might need to improve, it will be helpful to be able to compare what you felt was difficult  with your actual scores. This will also be helpful in case you want to study for the test again before you even get your score report back.


13. Once you finish the exam, go outside and do something fun.

Take the next few hours or even the rest of the day to relax and forget about the test. You’ll certainly have time to think more about it later (especially when you receive your score report). For now, it is most important that you have fun, remain balanced, and congratulate yourself on getting through a long, hard testing day.

For more information about taking the ACT and other standardized tests, check out these blog posts:


ACT vs. SAT/SAT Subject Tests

Should You Retake Your Standardized Tests?

Can A Good SAT/ACT Score Offset a Bad GPA?

When Should I Take the SAT/ACT?


Want to know how your SAT score/ACT score impacts your chances of acceptance to your dream schools? Our free Chancing Engine will not only help you predict your odds, but also let you know how you stack up against other applicants, and which aspects of your profile to improve. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to gain access to our Chancing Engine and get a jumpstart on your college strategy!

Devin Barricklow
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Devin Barricklow is a Political Science and Creative Writing double major at Columbia University. She’s really excited to be able to share her expertise about the college process with students who need advice. When she isn’t writing for CollegeVine, she enjoys reading the poems of Mary Oliver, going to concerts in the city, or cooking (preferably something with lots of bok choy and ginger).