Preparing For Test Day

High schools today can play a vital role in providing a high-quality test prep program which will level the playing field for many students.

Many of us are all too familiar with the unpleasant high school experience of walking into an ACT® or SAT® testing room completely unprepared. We may not have had the resources for a private tutor or perhaps we simply did not know how to prepare for this type of test on our own. The only advice our teachers or counselors most likely gave us was the following: the test is timed, make sure you have a few sharpened pencils, a pencil sharpener, and a good calculator. That was the extent of our preparation. 

As soon as we sat down, we knew we were not prepared. We wore shorts, a tank top, flip flops and the testing room was an ice box. We brought no water bottle or snacks and our stomachs had already started growling. We looked around the room and noticed some students had watches on their wrists and were checking for accuracy with the clock on the wall. The only timer we had was the clock on the wall that happened to be behind us. As the test began, we were blown away at the number and type of questions. We soon realized we may not have time to finish and panic soon set in.

Lack of Preparation Can Make a Student:

  • anxious not knowing what to expect
  • uncertain realizing they can not remember some of the content
  • rushed as the clock ticks and time is running out
  • embarrassed they did not prepare or practice like some students did
  • regret at blowing a possible opportunity


Can students be better prepared and receive higher scores?

Taking an achievement test without any preparation is a lot like taking a driving test without any practice time behind the wheel. High schools today can play a vital role in providing a high-quality test prep program which will level the playing field for many students. Students who have completed Horizon Education SAT® aligned or ACT® aligned lessons with corresponding practice questions, and have practiced taking multiple aligned benchmarks can now be better prepared for the actual test day. 

What are the tricks to doing well? 

It is taking the time necessary to simply practice using strategic strategies, brush up on content areas needing attention and be prepared for the actual test day. Here are some tips to ensure students do their very best:

  1. Before the Test
  • Review only lightly the night before the test or not at all. They should not try to learn new concepts at the last minute.
  • Pick out clothing to wear to the test and lay them out. Dress in layers so they are prepared for an air conditioned exam room or a room that is hotter than expected. Their comfort may affect their performance.
  • Organize everything they will need to bring with them on exam day and have it laying out next to their clothing the night before.
  • Know exactly where the test center is located, accurate directions on how to get there and how long it should take.
  • Get plenty of rest the night before and eat a nutritious meal.
  • Set an alarm and plan a time to leave that allows for delays. It is always better to be early than late. 
  1. Morning of the Test
  • Eat a good breakfast and stay hydrated. The body and mind need fuel to perform well.
  • Allow plenty of time to travel to the test center and follow the admission ticket as to how early they should arrive.
  • Arriving late will require students to miss the test and to reschedule for another day. Once the test begins, they will not be allowed to enter under any circumstances.
  • Remember to dress in layers
  • Bring all the items necessary for the test
  1. Test Day Item Checklist
  • Admission ticket
  • Approved photo ID
  • No. 2 pencils and erasers (until all tests go digital)
  • Calculator with new batteries and back-up batteries
  • Non-beeping watch
  • Healthy snacks and a water bottle
  • Directions to the test center and instructions for finding the entrance
  1. During the Test
  • Remember strategies from the Mindfulness lesson and keep the mind on the task at hand.
  • They should not compare their progress to that of other test takers. Everyone works at their own pace that works for them.
  • Remember test taking strategies and be sure to use them.
  • Read each question in its entirety, and consider each answer choice.
  • Work at a good, even pace, and keep moving.
  • Keep track of time throughout each section and be sure their watch matches the proctor’s clock.
  • Frequently double check that the answer being bubbled in matches the correct section of the answer sheet (until all tests go digital).
  • Go in with a positive outlook during the test. A lot of time and effort was put into being prepared for this day.
  1. After the Test
  • A score report should become available in approximately 2-6 weeks after the test. They need to determine if they want to retake the test. They can always retake the test after they pinpoint which areas they need to improve. Most students improve their scores after taking the test a second time.
  • Take time to relax and unwind with friends or family and celebrate all their hard work.

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