Last-Minute Study Tips for SAT and ACT

No matter what exam you're taking, there are certain things you can do in the days before to ensure a successful experience. It makes sense to review what you've learned, but eating well, sleeping, and taking time to relax go a long way, too.

Sleep

It is important to be well rested. Make sure to get a good night's sleep in the few days before the test.

If you don't sleep well the night before the test, don't worry about it! It is more important to sleep well two and three nights before. You should still have the energy you need to perform at your best.

Diet

Don't change your diet right before the test. Now's not the time to try new foods, even if they are healthier. You don't want to find out on test morning that yesterday's energy bar didn't go down well.

In the few weeks before the test, try to work a light, healthy breakfast into your daily routine. If you already eat breakfast, good for you - don't change a thing.

Stress

Try to be aware of whatever anxiety you're feeling before test day. The first thing to remember is that this is a natural phenomenon; your body is conditioned to raise the alarm whenever something important is about to happen. However, because you are aware of what your body and mind are doing, you can compensate for it.

Spend some time each day relaxing. Try to let go of all the pressures that build up during your average day.

Visualize a successful test day experience. You already know what to expect on test day: when you'll get each test section, the number of questions, how much time you'll have, etc. You also know where you are strong and where you are weak. Picture yourself confidently answering questions correctly, and smoothly moving past trouble spots - you can come back to those questions later.

Find a family member or trusted friend with whom you can talk about the things that stress you out about the test. When this person tells you that everything is going to be okay, believe it!

Verbal Questions

For passage-based questions, first work on detail questions to which you can easily locate the answer. Then move on to inference questions, questions that ask what the author intended, and main idea questions.

If a question involves a tough vocabulary word, use the surrounding clues in the text to determine what it means.

Writing Questions

Remember that a few spelling or grammar mistakes are tolerable, but try to eliminate as many of those as you can.

Try to vary your sentence length and word choices.

Before you begin to write, spend a few minutes brainstorming ideas and outlining the argument you want to make. Planning will help you write a well-organized and cohesive essay.

Practice and Review

Whatever you do, don't cram for the test! It is a bad strategy because you aren't going to remember most of what you "learn" while cramming, and the odds are slim that the few things it will help you remember will happen to be on the test. Save the energy you would have used for cramming to help you perform well on test day.

In the few days before the test, do a review of the skills and concepts in which you are strong. Be confident as you review everything you know - and remember that confident feeling as you take the test.

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