It doesn’t matter how well-prepared students are for the ACT exam – there just seems to be no mercy when it comes to feelings of apprehension and cases of the jitters.
Ideally your teen has at least an idea of what’s on the test and has taken a practice exam or two to become a little more familiar with its format and content. Knowing how to prepare and and what to expect will help greatly on test day.
But even if you haven’t enrolled your teenager in an ACT prep program or bought books to study with, you can help overcome a little bit of the stress your teen’ll surely feel the week leading up to the test.
Preparation and expectation-setting are key.
Check out these tips to help your kid get through the exam a little more comfortably.
The Week Before the ACT
- Practice. Have your teen take a practice ACT exam early the week prior. You can find official ACT practice exams, along with information about how to prepare and strategize for the test, in The Official ACT Prep Guide.
- Go for a drive. Know where the ACT testing center is and take a practice drive there. Many times it’s not at the high school your teen’s familiar with, and I’ve had more than one mom let me know on Monday that they got lost on the way to the testing facility. That’ll make your kid an anxious wreck for sure, and it could also make him lose his seat! Consider driving with your teen to the facility now to ease any tension he might feel the morning of the test.
The Day Before the ACT
- Do NOT study. It may seem a good idea to have your kid crack open the ACT book for one more go at studying, but Don’t. Do. It. Cramming right before the exam can increase anxiety, and sleep can often be interrupted the night before the test by dreams of filling in bubbles and proctors yelling “time’s up!”
- Relax! Let your teen take it easy today by doing something fun and relaxing.
- Gather up gear. Make sure all of the documents and materials needed are all lined up and ready to go for the exam in a backpack. And be sure you’re following the rules here. Exam proctors are ruthless when it comes to not admitting students or confiscating things!
The things to put together include:
Admission ticket – Your child should log in to his online ACT account to print this out.
Photo ID – There are rules about this. A few of my students have been turned away for not having an appropriate ID.
Calculator – There are rules about which students can use. Make sure it’s the right kind, or he’ll lose it at the door.
No. 2 pencils – Have at least two, with erasers.
Watch – Make sure there’s no alarm on it, or that’ll be taken. Sometimes students are placed in the room where they can’t see the clock, so this is very important.
Snacks and a drink – Students can consume these during breaks, and it’s important for maintaining energy.
Check out the ACT website for a full list of dos and don’ts for what to bring on test day.
- Sleep well. An early bedtime is best. A tired exam-taker absolutely won’t perform in peak condition.
ACT Test Day
- Fuel up. Eating a healthy breakfast is so important today, because your teenager needs to maintain energy with this close-to-4-hour ACT exam. Drinking water (not juice – sugar crash!) for hydration is important.
- Watch the caffeine. I know a lot of teens like coffee – I do too. And it’s definitely fine to have that. But a warning: it doesn’t help with test performance to be squirming in the seat before the next bathroom break. Just be reasonable with the amount, is all.
The Day After the ACT
- BREEEATHE. It can be an overwhelming experience getting ready for these big tests and trying to keep your teen in a low-stress state during the week.
- Mark the calendar. Tell your teen to set a reminder on the calendar about ACT score-release day. You can check out ACT’s website for score release dates.
- Consider taking it again. I know it’s likely the last thing your kid wants to think about right now, but check out why I almost always recommend taking at least two ACT exams for college admissions.
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