Taking the ACTs and SATs is like playing in the Superbowl: you need extreme focus, you can’t let your opponent psych you out, and your future is riding on your performance. To emerge victorious, you must be physically and mentally prepared to crush your opponent. In order to win the championship ring – that college acceptance letter – you need to outsmart, outperform, and out-tackle the toughest questions on the test. Here’s how to do it:
Wear a Watch: Timing is essential on the SAT and ACT, yet many classrooms don’t have clocks (or at least working ones!). Pacing can make or break your score, so keep an eye on the time.
Bubble in Properly: Filling in a circle seems so simple, but just last weekend, I had a student cancel his SAT test because he bubbled incorrectly. He waited until the end of each section to bubble in all of his answers, then bubbled in the wrong section! Don’t let this happen to you! Bubble in as you answer each question! Also, don’t let sloppy bubbling cost you precious points. Fill in the circle completely, darkly, and within the lines so that the Scantron machine correctly interprets your answer. Don’t forget to erase completely. And whatever you do, don’t use a mechanical pencil!
Do Not Hit a Wall: Frustration and anxiety arise when you come to a tough question you cannot answer. It is important to SKIP this question and come back to it a few minutes later. As you take the test, the brain develops a natural rhythm and what seemed impossible a few minutes ago might not be so hard now. Answer the questions in the order you want to answer them! Also, engage in Process of Elimination (POE): narrow the answer down to 2 or 3 choices (from 5) and make an educated guess.
Don’t Get Stumped: The SAT contains 10 sections, but one of these sections is the experimental section. This section doesn’t count in your overall score. The experimental section can be math, reading, or writing (but not the essay). If you find a very difficult section, do not panic! This might be the experimental section. Take a deep breath and just do your best. Make sure you complete every section even if you’re sure it’s the experimental one, just in case you’re wrong. (Better safe than sorry, right?) The SAT and the ACT can be mind games but don’t let the test win! After you complete each section, let it go and move on!