What To Do The Day Before The ACT

So you’re taking the ACT soon! While taking standardized tests like the ACT or SAT can be quite an overwhelming and stressful experience, there are ways to minimize and manage your preparation when it’s crunch time. 

There are a few ways you can make sure you’re setting yourself up for success even the day and night before you take the exam. And while these tips might seem small or like common sense, it’s important to give yourself the best chance to succeed as possible. Plus, managing your stress levels will (hopefully) feel easier when you know you have everything squared away and that you gave yourself the best set-up possible before the exam. 

If you’re interested in tips that will help you prepare both the day before and the night before you take the ACT, keep reading! We’ll also cover some information about what you should be bringing to the ACT so you can fully prepare. 

Keep Calm And Relax

This might be a tall order, but relaxing is one of the most important things you can do for yourself before a big exam like the ACT. By now, you’ve probably heard all about how important these college admissions standardized tests can be, and there’s a good chance you’re feeling stressed about how it’ll go. It’s hard to just turn off your brain and stop being stressed, but if you can, you should really make an effort to. 

Test taking anxiety is one of the biggest factors that might influence how well you perform, no matter how much or how long you studied. Especially if you’ve been studying for weeks and have prepared to the best of your ability, you don’t want that to be affected because you’re feeling nervous or psyching yourself out. 

Everyone is different, and some people actually need that feeling of stress to perform well. But, as a general rule of thumb, you should make an effort to do things (within reason) that help you relax and take your mind off of the exam. 

And remember — yes, the ACT is an important test. We won’t kid you by telling you it’s not. However, if you don’t get the score you want, it’s not the end of the world. First, college admissions are holistic, meaning they review your application as a whole and consider all aspects of your profile, not just your test scores. If you have other strong points in your application, it will not ruin your chances if you have a slightly lower score than you were hoping for. Second, you can usually retake the ACT as many times as you want! If you’ve given yourself enough time between application deadlines, you can retake the ACT if you want to. Yes, there are other factors to consider when thinking about how many times you want to take the exam, but in general there is no problem with taking the ACT two or even three times.

You know yourself best, so just try to make a conscious effort to take your mind off of the exam and relax.

Check Out Test-Taking Tips And Strategies

While you should not be taking any practice exams the day before you take the ACT, it doesn’t help to lightly go over some test-taking tips and strategies if you haven’t already. Ideally, you’ll be refreshing your memory on tips you already reviewed and implemented in past practice tests. If not, it’s okay to just read through some strategies and try your best to use them the next day when applicable.

For some articles to review test-taking strategies, check out the following articles:

Best ACT Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Final Score

ACT Math Tips And Tricks To Get Through The Test

ACT English Tips for Preparation and Test Taking

We’d recommend not trying to read advanced testing strategies or tips the day before you take the exam unless it’s something you’re used to using in an exam — you don’t want to try a new method for the first time during the ACT. For instance, if one article or source advises you to read the questions before reading the passages, you should disregard that unless it’s something you have tried that worked for you. Everyone is different, so just because some people excel when they read the questions first does not mean that you will. When in doubt, stick to what has worked in the past for you. 

If you’ve been preparing for many weeks or even months, it’s okay if you skip this step the day before the exam as you’ll probably be well versed in the standard strategies. 

Confirm And Note Your Test Center Information

Hopefully, you have a good idea of where your test center is located and how to get there from your home in the morning. Make sure to double check your information to ensure you’re headed for the right place the following day, and if it’s to a place you’ve never been before, it’d be a good idea to quickly take a look at the route to get there and how far away it is so you know how early to leave in the morning.

Double checking your information will also help remind you to check other aspects related to the testing center, like that you have a printed copy of your ACT admissions ticket and that it displays all the correct information.

What Not To Do The Day Before The ACT

Now that you have a good idea of a few things to do the day before you take the ACT, here are a few things you should probably avoid the day before the exam.

Strain Or Exhaust Your Brain 

Remember, there’s a difference between skimming through some low intensity, last minute tips and taking practice tests the day before you take the ACT. 

You want to make sure you are not straining yourself or exhausting yourself before the ACT, especially considering the length of the exam. The exam lasts around 3.5 hours without the optional essay portion, and if you’ve decided to take the essay too, you’ll be in the testing center for around 4 hours. So, you want to make sure that you’re giving yourself as much of a break as possible the day before the exam. 

Last minute cramming can be helpful, but cramming the day before the big exam might be too last minute. It also might not help you as much as you hope. For example, studying for the ACT a few weeks leading up to the exam means you can take a practice test, review the answers, and study the concepts you missed. But just because you reviewed a tough concept one time doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be able to absorb it right away — you might need more time and more similar practice problems in order to fully grasp the concept and start answering correctly. If you come across a problem you miss while studying the day before the exam, you aren’t giving yourself enough time to really understand the material and it probably won’t help you as much as your other practice has. 

Studying the day before the exam will most likely give you more unnecessary stress, so in general it’s best to steer clear from the ACT practice exams and books the day before the exam. As we’ve kept saying, hopefully you’ve put in the work and followed a study plan at least a couple of weeks before the exam. If you have, trusting yourself and the hard work you have done is the best course of action the day before the ACT. 

Pack Or Scheme Ways To Use Forbidden Tools 

Because the ACT can seem like such an important exam, sometimes students feel pressure to think of ways to get an extra advantage by cheating. Trust us, there is absolutely no reason to bring any aids to the exam. If you’re caught with tools that are not allowed during the exam, your score will be invalidated and it’ll cause way more of a headache than a less-than-perfect score will. If you’ve put in the work, believing in the studying you have done is the best course of action.

The ACT has pretty well defined limits to what you can bring on your test day, which you can review on their website here. For a quick recap, you cannot bring the following to your test center and you cannot use them during the exam: 

  • Textbooks
  • Dictionaries
  • Scratch paper 
  • Notes 
  • Highlighter pens
  • Colored pencils 
  • White out (any correction fluid or tape)
  • Reading materials 
  • Any electronic devices not including a permitted calculator and acceptable watch (smart watches and fitness bands are not allowed)

Take Any Sleeping Aids

You might feel nervous the night or day before the exam, but it’s important to remember not to try anything too new the day before you take the ACT. This includes taking any sleeping aids like melatonin, which might seem like a good idea to help you get a good night’s sleep before the big exam, but it might affect you in unforeseen ways.

In addition to the uncertainty of how your body will react to a sleeping aid, you also just don’t want to end up sleeping through your test! The ACT typically begins pretty early in the morning, meaning you’ll need to wake up and get ready for your day pretty early. Taking a sleeping aid (if you don’t regularly use them) can seriously mess up your rhythm and it might even make you risk missing the exam altogether.   

What To Do The Night Before The ACT

Gather The Necessary (And Allowed) Items You Will Need For The ACT

We’ll provide a list of the necessities you must bring to the ACT later, but for a quick overview, you’ll need: 

  • Your ACT admissions ticket
  • An accepted form of photo ID (government issued/official school issued plastic card format)
  • An accepted calculator
  • Number 2 pencils and an eraser
  • Snacks and water 

Set Your Alarms 

Depending on how far away you live from your testing center, you might want to think about how early you want to wake up. Especially as the ACT recommends you arrive at the testing center by 8am, you should calculate how long it takes to commute there so you can further plan. 

If you’re a heavy sleeper, you might want to set multiple alarms around the same time or ask your parents or guardians to come wake you. Remembering to set your alarms might seem small, but one of the worst things that could happen is you missing your alarm — the ACT states that you will not be admitted into the test if you’re late. 

Plan Your Morning

Again, time is of the essence when it comes to the morning of the ACT because being late could mean you miss your test date. Account for how much time you will need to get up, get ready for the day, eat breakfast, pack your ACT materials, and commute to your testing center.

You don’t have to plan it out to the minute or anything too fancy, but thinking about your morning routine in a general sense can help you get an idea for how long everything will take so you can make it to your test comfortably on time.

Get A Good Night’s Sleep 

While this might be hard if you have some nerves the night before the ACT, getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most subtly important things you can do for yourself. You want to make sure you wake up refreshed and energized so you can focus on the extremely long exam with as much concentration and effort as possible. Again, figure out what time you have to wake up and work backwards from there, making sure you’re getting around 8 hours of sleep if you can. 

What To Do The Morning Of The ACT

On the day of your ACT, there are a few things you should make sure you do before heading to the testing center to make sure you have the smoothest testing experience possible. 

First, make sure you get a decent breakfast, especially if you usually have a good breakfast on other days. Like we mentioned earlier, the ACT is a very long and arduous test, so you don’t want to be focusing on hunger during the exam. Getting a good breakfast before the exam will help you stay energized for the exam and will also help you get through its long duration. Don’t worry, you can also bring snacks to the exam that you can eat during breaks, so if you think you’ll need some make sure to pack some in your bag. 

Second, and arguably even more important: double check you have everything you need to take the exam and make sure it’s all in your bag! There are a few things you need to have in order to even get into the testing center, and you do not want to leave them at home. You should pack your things the night before to avoid a rushed packing job in the morning, but even so you should just do a quick double check the morning before even if it is just to give yourself some peace of mind. 

The official ACT website suggests you should arrive by 8:00 am and you must arrive on time in order to be admitted to the exam. If you are late, you will most likely not be able to join your peers and take the ACT on your scheduled day. 

What To Bring To The ACT 

Printed Copy Of Your ACT Admissions Ticket

This is the most important item you should bring when you leave to take the ACT. You will need a printed version of your ACT admissions ticket (along with an accepted form of photo ID) to even be admitted into the testing center. 

Your ticket should have important information printed on it, like your registration match information or your online launch code. You should be able to print a copy of your ACT admission ticket on MyACT after you’ve uploaded a photo of yourself. 

Accepted Form Of Photo ID

Like we mentioned above, you must have an accepted form of photo ID with you in order to be admitted into the testing center. If your ID is not one of the accepted forms, you will be denied entry and will not be able to take the exam that day unless you retrieve an accepted form of ID in time. 

Acceptable forms of ID include a current official photo ID that has been issued by a city, state, or federal government or your school. They must be in hard plastic card format, so any paper or electronic forms of ID will not be accepted. If you do not have a current official photo ID that matches the parameters we just outlined, then you can present an ACT student identification form with photo, which is a document that must be fully completed by a school official or notary public (neither can be a relative). For more information on acceptable forms of identification for the ACT, read about it on the official ACT website here.

Any other form of ID will not be accepted, so you must present one of the above. Some forms of ID that will not be accepted include but aren’t limited to: the ACT ticket by itself, birth certificate, credit/debit/bank cards, diploma, ID issued by employer, Learner’s driving permit, or Social Security card.

Number 2 Pencils

Bring at least 2 sharpened number 2 pencils to the exam (not mechanical pencils or any other writing implements like pens, markers, or highlighter pens). Most likely, your testing center will have extra pencils and sharpeners, but it’s always best to be prepared in case they don’t for any reason. You also want to make sure you have a proper eraser. Since the ACT exams are scored via Scantron, making sure to use a No. 2 pencil and erasing any stray marks are extremely important. 

Permitted Calculator

You may bring an accepted calculator to the ACT for the math section, but before you pack one you should make sure it’s a permitted model. 

Permitted calculators are 4 function scientific or graphing calculators that are not on the prohibited list. The prohibited list includes calculators with built-in or downloaded computer algebra system functionality, like Texas Instruments models that begin with TI-89 or TI-92, HP Prime, fx-CP400 (the ClassPad 400), and more. If you want a more comprehensive list of prohibited calculators, check out this official ACT calculator policy resource. You also cannot use handheld, tablet or laptop computers, calculators that are built into cell phones, or calculators that have QWERTY format letter keys. 

Snacks And Water Bottle

Since the ACT lasts so long, you might want a snack to eat during breaks. You can pack a few snacks and a water bottle in case you want to eat something and get some more fuel in between the exam sections. 

Prepare For The ACT With SoFlo Tutors 

Give yourself the best chance to succeed on the ACT by working with SoFlo Tutors. SoFlo Tutors are students at top universities who scored in the highest percentiles of the ACT and/or SAT. Schedule a free consultation call today and check out our website here

Frequently Asked Questions

What To Do The Day Before The ACT?

  • Give your brain a rest
  • Pack all necessary items for the ACT 
  • Confirm your testing information and test center location

What To Do The Night Before The ACT?

  • Get a good night’s rest 
  • Plan your route and morning routine
  • Set your alarms

What Not To Do The Day/Night Before The ACT?

  • Stress yourself out unnecessarily 
  • Cram with practice tests
  • Pack prohibited tools and items 

About The Author

Emily is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania and will be working as a Marketing Analyst in New York City after graduation. In her free time, she enjoys painting and playing the guitar.

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