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Suniti's Advice Corner

5 Things you shouldn’t do before your SAT/ACT

Posted by Sybil St. Hilaire on Fri, May 09, 2014

smiling study outside resized 600There are a number of lists that tell what you should do in the time leading up to SAT or ACT test day. We’ve even written a couple. Now here are some mistakes/bad habits to avoid as you start to prepare for test day. 

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I. Forget to register for the test

It’s hard to take a test that you have not registered for. Registering for the SAT or ACT is relatively painless and can be done by mail or online. Sign up for the SAT or ACT as soon as you have settled on a date.

Not having a test-prep plan is often the biggest impediment to registering for the test on time. If you’re having trouble developing an SAT or ACT prep plan, we recommend the following:


  1. Attempt the test twice over the course of your junior year, once in Jan/March and then again in May/June. Plan around the busy times on your academic calendar.
  2. If needed, attempt the SAT a third time in October of your senior year


  1. Students should attempt the ACT for the first in February of your junior year
  2. Attempt the ACT for the second time in October of senior year

For key registration dates, deadlines, and registration information:

Click here to register for the SAT

Click here to register for the ACT

II. Study at the last minute (aka the night before)

Research has shown that spacing out your study sessions helps with long-term retention of material. Odds are that any material you look for the first time the night before the test, won’t be retained during the test. It is difficult and anxiety-inducing to learn and try to retain 30+ hours worth of material the night before your SAT or ACT.

In order to avoid the last minute crunch it might make sense to study during any breaks from school (check out our tips for summer study here). If a school break is not on the horizon, develop a detailed study plan instead.

III. Neglect to take practice tests

Research also suggests testing yourself on the material constantly as you study. It is the only way to ensure that you have actually learned the content. Practice tests are your opportunity to simulate SAT/ACT test day in a low stakes environment. Additionally, the SAT and ACT are timed tests, so you have to get used to answering questions in a timed setting. The more you practice, the faster you will get.

IV. Fail to assess your practice test performance

Taking a practice test is not enough to get you your dream score. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of taking a practice test, calculating your score and then going back to studying. Instead use the following questions to guide your assessment of your practice test performance:

  1. What sections seemed easier or harder to you during the practice test?
  2. Do your scores on particular section reflect your perceived perception of its difficulty?
  3. Are there any concepts that you need to refresh on? (e.g., triangles, sentence correction, long passages)
  4. If your practice test was timed, were you able to answer all of the questions in the allotted time frame?
  5. Are there sections where you were unable to get through all of the questions?
  6. What were your strengths and weaknesses based on this practice test, and how can you target your studying to address these?

These questions are just a starting point and should hopefully help to ensure that every study session counts, and that you are studying as effectively as possible. The TestRocker diagnostic test can assess this for you in 70 minutes.

V. Not Sleep

Often we equate working hard with not sleeping. The night before the SAT or ACT is not one of the times that you should operate in this way. In the nights leading up to the test you should make sure you are getting plenty of sleep. Adequate sleep is critical to boosting memory and learning ability.

Have more questions about how to be prepared for test day? Ask our experts!

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Tags: For Students

About Suniti

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Suniti is the creator of TestRocker, an online learning platform that helps you unlock your dream PSAT, SAT and ACT scores. TestRocker is based on Suniti’s highly successful and proven method of teaching thousands of students how to maximize their PSAT, SAT and ACT scores for over a decade.

TestRocker is an award-winning PSAT/SAT/ACT program that empowers students to take control of their test preparation. After taking a diagnostic test, students receive a customized study plan, individualized to their strengths/weaknesses. Students practice and learn concepts through videos. Each of the 2000+ questions on TestRocker is accompanied by a video explanation from Suniti. TestRocker has the largest video library in the world for PSAT/SAT/ACT preparation. 

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