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SAT and ACT Test-Taking Tips

Regardless of whether you’re writing the SAT, the ACT, or another important test or exam, here are several important tips from Oxford Learning and the American School Counselor Associationto help you achieve your best score:

Get your tools together

On the evening prior to the test or exam, gather all the tools needed: the admission ticket and a valid form of photo identification (for the SAT and ACT), several sharpened #2 pencils, an eraser, a calculator with fresh batteries (for the SAT only), a watch, and a high-energy snack.

Sleep on it

Hopefully, you’ve already done the hard work of studying. The night before before the test, the best thing to is to get a good night’s rest. You’ve read and re-read the content and perfected the skills. Now it’s time to get calm, rested, confident, and ready to write.

That layered look

The temperature in testing rooms can vary from too warm to too cool, and you need to be comfortable to do your best. Be prepared by dressing in layers so you can add or remove a layer or two if necessary.

Get there early

You don’t want to stress yourself before the test by getting there with little time to spare or not being able to find the test location. In fact, you may wish to visit your test location before test day to confirm that you know where you’re going.

Budget your time wisely

Because each SAT and ACT question is worth the same number of points, you should try and allot the same amount of time for each question. If a question confuses you, don’t panic. Progress to a question you can do, and come back to more difficult questions if you have time at the end of a section. And don’t fret about experimental questions on the SAT and ACT. They can be well-hidden and scattered throughout the sections. Doing your best on every question is the best strategy.

Beware of traps

On the SAT, obvious answer choices early in a set may be correct. Obvious choices near the end of a set are often booby traps.

Take a guess

On the SAT, if you can eliminate one answer choice, you should always guess. The test penalizes you 1/4 of a point for multiple-choice questions. Therefore. if you eliminate one wrong answer choice, your odds of success are better than the penalty of failure. The more wrong answers you can eliminate, the better that ratio shifts in your favor! And, you should always guess on grid-ins, since a wrong answer and a blank answer are scored the same.

On the ACT, there is no penalty for wrong answers, so never leave a question unanswered.

Fill in carefully

When completing the answer grid, make sure you’re filling in answers next to the right numbers.


Your attitude and outlook are most important to how you perform on test-day performance. Be confident and do your best.

Get help if you need it

If you needs help preparing for the SAT or ACT, remember that Oxford Learning can help. To find out more about our innovative SAT Plus program that prepares every student to get the highest test score, plus teaches advanced learning and study skills to succeed in college or university, please click here.

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