How to Prepare the Week Before the SAT or ACT


Hello SAT and ACT students!

The week before the SAT or ACT can be a hectic week. Here are a few tips on how to get through the week and be your best self on test day!

For your body—Pretend that you are going to run a marathon instead of take a test.

  1. Clear out your schedule that week so that your only commitments are your schoolwork and at least an hour of test prep per day. Tell your coach, club president, boy/girlfriend and friends ahead of time that you’ll catch up with them the week after.
  2. Make sure you get enough sleep for at least a week before test day. Teens need at least 9 hours of sleep to be healthy, much more than they usually get. I usually hear them brag to their friends about how tired they are, but the week before the SAT or ACT is not the week to boast. Make a commitment to get to bed every day at the same time and get the sleep you need. Remember, driving sleepy is like driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Taking a test sleepy is the same. For more info, click here.
    Here is a TED talk about how sleep is one of our basic needs, right along there with food and shelter. We need it to fully organize and solidify what we learned that day. Remember, reviewing strategies and practice tests that day will be useless to you if you don’t sleep.
  3. Stay away from sick people. As far away as possible.
  4. Eat well that week. This means eating your veggies, and I recommend blueberries, foods with Omega-3 (like salmon) and whole grains. Also, don’t eat anything the night before that might make your stomach hurt or give you food poisoning (like raw food, etc). Believe me, it won’t be pretty.
  5. Do NOT try drinking two energy drinks or taking a caffeine pill that morning if you don’t usually do that. You’ll vibrate so much you won’t be able to concentrate.
  6. Bring layers in case it is either freezing or hot.

For your mind—Pretend like it is a final for school

  1. Review at least an hour a day. Go over:
    • Types of critical reading questions
    • Types of wrong answers
    • Old practice tests
    • Old lessons
    • Grammar rules
  2. Memorize some roots, in case you see a word in the passages or questions that you don’t know. Find a list of at least 50 essential roots and get down to it. Here is a good list
  3. Get everything that you need ready the night before. Have your calculator (with backup calculator in case yours dies) pencils, sharpener, eraser, a watch that doesn’t beep, tissues, water, snacks, etc ready to go.
  4. Sometime during the week before, drive to the testing area and figure out where the building is so that you know where you’re going that morning. I recommend having a responsible person drive you there that morning so you don’t have to worry about parking.

The number one tip: Focus and don’t panic

Take time this week to focus on your goals. Visualize what you are about to do and why. Doing the best you can do on this test will help your chances of getting into your dream college. Think about your dream college and imagine yourself walking through the quad, happily going to your favorite class while the fall air is crisp around you. Listen to music that will keep you calm and ready to do what you know you can do.
Remember not to panic. When I explain to my students the importance of not panicking on the test, I tell them about this NPR interview I heard a few years back. This guy was deep sea scuba diving and surfaced to find out that his entire crew, including the boat, was gone and all he could see for miles and miles was ocean. The interviewer was horrified and asked him what his next move was. The guy replied something along the lines of “Well, I had two choices: to panic or stay calm. If I panicked, I would most definitely die. If I stayed calm, I might live. So I decided to stay calm.” That’s you. You have a choice. If you get to a difficult passage or question, stay calm and you might get through it and still do well. If you panic, you’ll crash and burn.

Good Luck!