The Don’ts of SAT and ACT Prep (Part 2)

SAT Prep

Last week I covered some important tips for the months and days leading up to the SAT or ACT. Today let’s tackle the Don’ts of test day. 

Don’t sleep through the test

Several years ago I taught an SAT class in which one student explained to me why he was there. “I can’t submit my ACT scores now because I bombed it. I stayed out the night before until 5:00 am and fell asleep during the test. Now I have to take the SAT.” Sigh.


I know none of you plan on staying out until 5:00 am before your test, right? Hasn’t your mother told you that nothing good happens after midnight? And even midnight is too late of a bedtime the night before the SAT or the ACT. The tests are up to 5 hours long, and if you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you are guaranteed to fade just over halfway through. I know that many high school social and athletic events occur on Friday nights, but think about the events you might miss out on at the college of your choice if you don’t get the test scores needed to go there.


Don’t let your stomach growl

I admit it: I’ve been that person in a testing room whose stomach has growled and distracted everyone in the room. Not only did I lose focus because I was hungry, but also because I was embarrassed by the sounds emanating from my core. Since then, I don’t take the SAT or ACT without eating breakfast and packing a snack to eat on my break. It’s a proven fact that breakfast increases your concentration, mood, and memory, so pick a healthy meal to help you get through the test. Food that is high in protein will keep you full longer, although if you don’t usually eat a breakfast bean burrito, the day of the SAT is not a good time to start. Choose an innocuous protein bar if you are not normally a breakfast eater.


Don’t finish early

Every time I take the SAT or ACT, without fail, several students finish a section and put their heads down. The teacher in me wants to get up and shake them, but the competitor in me inwardly smiles because they instantly become a lower statistic on the percentile rankings. It is SAT and ACT suicide to assume that you are so intelligent you selected all of the right answers on the first pass through a section. I consistently score in the 99th percentile, and I consistently find mistakes when I go back and check my work when there is time remaining. Remember, the questions are designed to take advantage of your assumptions and your inattention to detail, so reviewing your answers will either confirm their selection or help your see the trap into which you fell.


Don’t misbubble your answer sheet

If you skip a question on the SAT, you must also skip that bubble in the answer booklet. It is imperative that you be meticulous in bubbling in your answer sheet if you omit questions. “There are 20 questions but I’ve only bubbled in 19! Where did I go wrong????” You know the signs: mad page turning, frantic erasing, and hasty re-bubbling. Avoid the panic by being painstaking in your transfer of answers.


If you skip a question on the ACT, lightly bubble in answer choice (A) or (F) in your answer booklet before moving on to the next question. There is no penalty for wrong answers on this test, so putting a “placeholder” answer will not affect your score. It will, however, keep you from misbubbling.


I hope these test day tips have helped! As always, please feel free to email me with any questions:


Note: This article is full of SAT vocabulary words (innocuous, meticulous, and painstaking, just to name a few). For their definitions, and the definitions of other common SAT words, check out our Repeat Offenders!