SAT / ACT Test Day Tips - What to Do to Prep the Night Before the SAT / ACT?


It's finally here! Your SAT / ACT is this Saturday!

We at PrepScholar want to make sure your test day goes well, so here are some tips. Feel free to forward this to your friends if you think it's helpful!


Dealing with Pre-ACT / SAT Nervousness and Anxiety

It's inevitable that you'll feel a little nervous before the test. After all, this is an important test. However, you definitely don't want to get into your own head.

The best way to combat nervousness is to evaluate all the work you've done. If you've been working hard with a prep program, you'll already be way ahead. You'll know exactly what kinds of questions are going to appear, you'll know what your strengths are, and there will only be few surprises.

Furthermore, if you're a junior or younger, it's likely that you'll have many more chances to take this test. Even if you don't do as well as you'd like on this test, you'll be able to take it again.

Don't get nervous during the test, either. It's easy to get flustered when you get stuck on a question, or get a string of questions that you can't answer. This is how the ACT and SAT are designed. They want to trip you up like this so you start making mistakes. So don't let them win–don't get nervous. It's hard to predict how you're doing on the test overall based on a few questions. What's important is that you stay strong throughout the entire 4-hour test.

Imagine yourself crushing the ACT / SAT. Positive thoughts directly improve performance.


The Day Before the ACT / SAT

The day before the test, you generally want to be relaxing. Sure, take some time to study lightly—review flashcards or lessons—but as a rule of thumb, don't study more than 2 hours. Instead, spend some time doing relaxing activities (think long bath, not intense video games).

Also, make sure you get enough sleep, at least 7 hours but no more than 9 hours. This might mean getting to bed one to two hours earlier than normal, and letting your natural sleep cycle take over.


Wake Up Early

Set your alarm clock for two hours before the test time. If you want, set another backup clock for 5 minutes later. Your brain takes up to two hours to fully wake up, and you don't want to be starting the test on a cold engine.

Do some jumping jacks to get the blood flowing, and then take a shower to be clean for the test. Eat a full breakfast high in complex carbs like whole grain cereal or toast and low in sugars like maple syrup. Follow your normal coffee routine -- if you don't drink it most days, then you shouldn't today either.


Wear Comfortable Layered Clothing

Today's not the day for fashion. Wear practical clothing in layers, so you can take off layers if the room is too warm, or put more on if it's cold. A good set is t-shirt, pajama pants or jeans, sneakers, and a sweatshirt.


Make Sure You Have Everything, Including Snacks

What you need: your printed admissions ticket, multiple number 2 pencils, an raser, your photo ID, a calculator, a watch, a bottle of water, and a snack (I recommend a granola bar or trail mix). Put everything in a bag or your backpack the day before, so you have zero surprises the morning of the test.


Warm up with a Few Problems

If time allows before your test, try two problems from each section just to get used to doing problems. Get those juices flowing.


Test Center Best Practices: Get there early, and focus on yourself

Get there early -- aim to be there at least fifteen minutes earlier than the recommended time. You don't want the panic that comes with getting to your test late. Use Google Maps to find directions the day before, and if you're not driving yourself, make sure you and your driver (often a parent) coordinate on your schedule.

When you get to the test center, you might see your friends. Say hello, but don't linger to chat. Often you'll make each other more nervous. Instead, say "I'd really like to focus now, let's chat after the test?" It might be weird in the moment, but you don't need distractions.


Take the Breaks

About halfway through, even if you don't feel the need to, take a break to use the restroom, drink a sip of water, and down your snack. You'll thank yourself later.

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Other links you might like:


Future SAT Test Dates


What to do in case you get a low SAT / ACT score



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About the Author
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Dr. Fred Zhang

Fred is co-founder of PrepScholar. He scored a perfect score on the SAT and is passionate about sharing information with aspiring students. Fred graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor's in Mathematics and a PhD in Economics.

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