Practice Test Mistakes on SAT and ACT

Practice makes perfect–it’s a cliché for a reason. But many people assume that practicing alone is enough to prep for the SAT and ACT, and so they take as many practice tests as possible without reviewing their mistakes and taking the time to truly learn the material. Of course it’s wise to take several practice SATs or practice ACTs at various legs along your test prep journey, and it’s equally wise to seek expert guidance when it comes to learning the material on the SAT or ACT. But what about those who take practice tests under one of the following conditions? They’re definitely not going to get accurate scores OR realistic (valuable) practice. Here’s what you SHOULDN’T be doing:

1) Not simulating actual test conditions

This is an important one! If you’re taking the test at home in the comfort of your own bed at 6 p.m. on a Wednesday, you’re not simulating actual test conditions. You need to train your body to get up early on a Saturday morning and take the test in an air-conditioned room with fluorescent lights and other students around you. Luckily for you, we administer practice tests to our students on Saturday mornings at our Northwest Austin office. E-mail [email protected] to reserve a spot for yourself!

2) Eating during the test

You’re not allowed to eat snacks during the official SAT or ACT, so what makes you think you should be eating during a practice test? Unless your blood sugar’s low, keep the snacks on hand and consume them during your designated break, just like you would on the actual SAT or ACT.

3) Listening to music during the practice test

No headphones, nothing playing in those headphones, no background music, no humming, no singing, no dancing, no pencil tapping. Silence is golden! Imagine how annoying it would be for other people in the room if you were allowed to listen to music during the offical SAT or ACT.

4) Not keeping strict and accurate time of the test

It’s better to have someone else worry about timing you and keep you on track as far as time is concerned. If you’re constantly watching the clock and fumbling with the clock in order to time yourself, it’s likely that your mind won’t be where it needs to be, which is focused on the content of the SAT or ACT. This goes back to the first point: simulate actual testing conditions, with a proctor and strict (and accurate) time constraints.

5) Using your cell phone

Your scores would be canceled and you would be ejected from the room if you were caught using SnapChat or Instagram during the offical SAT or ACT, so don’t be tempted–even if you finish a section early–to fiddle with your phone. Even if it’s in Airplane mode. It should be off and stowed where you can’t access it. “But I need to use my phone as my calculator!” you protest. Nope. Get an actual calculator. When your mind is on your phone, your mind is somewhere other than the SAT or ACT.

6) Using your calculator during the entire practice test

That dictionary that you programmed into your calculator? Don’t use it during the reading section to look up the meaning of the word “verboten.” Keep the calculator use limited to the calculator-approved math sections of the SAT or ACT. Otherwise, keep it stowed out of sight!

7) Splitting your practice test up over several days

Can you imagine a marathon runner splitting his or her marathon up over the course of several days? No? Then don’t do the same with your practice SAT or ACT. By allowing yourself a bunch of time to rest and recharge in between sections, you’re betraying principle number 1, which is to simulate actual test conditions. That means a marathon. Push through!

8) Taking extra restroom breaks

Hold it until the offical break!

9) Not sitting at a desk

Sit at a desk! Unless you have been granted special accomodations by the SAT or ACT, you must sit at a desk like everyone else. No beds, couches, picnic blankets, carseats, hammocks, park benches, grassy knolls, truck beds, tree branches, etc., etc.

10) Not bubbling in your answers

It takes time to bubble your answers onto a Scantron, so make sure you practice that, too! Otherwise, you won’t have an accurate sense of the amount of time it takes!

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That’s it! Now that you know what NOT to do during a practice test, e-mail l[email protected] if you’d like to take a practice test at our Northwest Austin office. We simulate actual test conditions, so be ready to get up early on a Saturday! Practice makes perfect!



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