ACT Exam Strategies: What to Do (and Not Do) Before and During the Test

As the ACT test approaches this weekend, students all over the country are gearing up to put their knowledge and skills to the test. While it’s normal to feel some nerves before such an important exam, there are several things you can do to maximize your performance and improve your chances of success. Here are some last-minute tips to help you do your best on the ACT.

Before the Exam

  1. Get a good night’s sleep: It’s essential to get a good night’s sleep before the test. A big workout on Friday, ideally swimming, will help to eliminate any nervous tossing and turning at night. Remember that the quality of your sleep is generally a function of how much you exercised during the day.
  2. Eat healthy: Make sure to eat a healthy snack right before entering the test room, and something during the break to maintain your blood sugar levels. Avoid sugary snacks, as they can cause a sugar crash later on.
  3. Go to the bathroom: Before entering the test room and during the break, make sure to use the bathroom. Don’t wait until the last minute, as it could cause anxiety during the exam.
  4. Manage anxiety: Before any milestone event like the ACT, you’ll get a burst of energy. Instead of viewing it as a negative, try to see it as a wonderful blessing designed to help you perform at your best when you need it the most.
  5. Stay positive: Don’t talk to other students during the break or right before the test. They will invariably complain about some annoying thing you hadn’t noticed (that may end up plaguing you for the rest of the test like the “Baby Shark” song). Try not to pay attention to those who say the test isn’t well-written or that it isn’t important. Remember that the ACT is a terrific assessment of Reading, Math, Language, and Critical Thinking, and your score will provide excellent feedback that you can use to improve your college readiness.

During the Exam

  1. Keep track of time: Proctors often make mistakes in timekeeping, so bring your own wristwatch as a backup. Use an analog watch and set it to 12 o’clock at the beginning of each section. If the proctor is making a mistake, ask someone to back you up if you speak up.
  2. Read the instructions carefully: Make sure to read and understand the instructions for each section before beginning to answer the questions. This will help you avoid mistakes and save time.
  3. Pace yourself: It’s important to pace yourself during the test to ensure that you have enough time to answer all of the questions. Don’t spend too much time on any one question, and try to answer the easier questions first.
  4. Skim passages: For the Reading section, it can be helpful to skim the passages first to get an idea of what they’re about before diving into the questions. This can save you time and help you focus on the most important information.
  5. Use process of elimination: If you’re not sure of the answer to a question, try to eliminate any obviously wrong answers first. This can increase your chances of getting the question right.
  6. Take advantage of resources: There are many resources available to help you prepare for the ACT, such as practice tests, study guides, and tutoring services. Taking advantage of these resources can help you feel more confident and prepared on test day.


Remember, the ACT is just one aspect of your college application, and it’s important to keep things in perspective. While a good score can certainly help your chances of getting into your desired school, it’s not the only factor that admissions officers consider. So, do your best, stay calm, and remember that there are many paths to success.


With these tips in mind, you’re well on your way to maximizing your performance on the ACT. Remember to stay calm, focused, and positive, and you’ll be sure to do your best. Good luck!

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