The benefits of taking a practice SAT or ACT test are plentiful, but did you know that it matters HOW you take a practice test? Your goal while taking a practice exam should be to recreate the test environment as much as possible. Practice is important, but it’s the practice that feels just like the test day that will really contribute to your success. Utilize the following tips when taking a practice test at home:
- Take your test somewhere quiet, where you don’t think you’ll be disturbed. This area should mimic the test environment as much as possible.
- Make sure you’re using a real ACT or SAT scantron to bubble in your answers as you test. You can find a real ACT scantron and/or SAT scantron on our website under ACT Resources and SAT Resources.
- Set two timers for each section: one to go off when you have 5 minutes remaining and one to go off when time is up. On test day, your proctor will announce when you have 5 minutes remaining, and this is a critical time to ensure that all of the answers for that section are filled in on your answer sheet before time is called. When your proctor announces that time is up, you can be dismissed if you are caught filling in bubbles afterwards. ***The ACT and SAT provide different warnings about time while testing. The ACT only provides a “5 Minute Warning” when there are five minutes remaining in the section. The SAT will provide two warnings: the first when you are halfway through a section and the second when you have five minutes remaining in the section.*** If you are looking for a virtual proctor to lead you through the tests’ official instructions and timing parameters, try using our “Proctor” videos. These videos are designed to serve as your virtual proctor as you test, allowing you to press play and not worry about setting timers or warnings. You can find both an ACT Proctor and SAT Proctor video under our ACT Resources and SAT Resources page.
- Do not use a phone or laptop to keep time. Use a tool you’ll really be able to use on test day like a watch. Start practicing with a watch now, so you feel comfortable with it on test day. (But NO smartwatches).
- Take each test section in one sitting, to mimic the real test. The best way to prepare for test day is to schedule weeks where you can take one full test from start to finish. This can be a three-hour to three-and-a-half-hour commitment, but it will provide you with the most accurate possible assessment. Remember, for many students, a test section like the ACT’s Science section is significantly harder because it is the last section you take on test day. You will benefit most from seeing how fatigued or error-prone you are at the end of taking a long test.
- Use the same materials that you will use on test day. Make sure to have number #2 pencils, good erasers, the official calculator that you use for your Math classes, and a watch available.
- Do not leave any blank answers on your test scantron. These tests will not penalize you for a wrong answer, so it’s imperative that you fill in an answer for every question, even if it’s a guess or you’re running out time. You will receive credit for any question you answer correctly, even if it’s a guess. Use this same strategy as you’re taking practice tests, so you can still see what credit you’ll receive for correct guess answers.
- Do not hesitate to write in your test booklet. On test day, that booklet is never used again, so you are HIGHLY encouraged to write inside of it. That means writing out your work in the Math section, crossing off wrong answers as you attempt the process of elimination, and circling or underlining important terms in the passage. Students who write within the test are more likely to avoid silly reading or computation errors!
At Seeley Test Pros, we recommend you take a minimum of 3-4 full practice tests prior to your upcoming test date. If you are looking for free official practice ACT and SAT exams, take a look at our ACT Resources and SAT Resources pages on our website. Test preparation books can be helpful, but avoid taking any practice tests that are created by a test preparation company that is NOT official. Only official ACT and SAT tests are optimal for practice tests, as they are most similar to what you will see on test day. Good luck!