Tutoring is useful, but what really counts as far as SAT and ACT prep is concerned is your performance on the day of the test. In this article, I’ll offer some advice on how to do your best on test day!

1) Get a good night’s sleep

I know this is easier said than done, but it’s important to get a full night’s sleep. Try to limit your engagement with screens, which inhibit melatonin production in your brain and make it more difficult to fall asleep. Need help sleeping? Do some practice SAT or ACT problems or read a book, drink a cup of herbal tea, then take a warm shower and get into bed in a room with cool temperature. The sudden shift between hot and cold lowers your heart rate and makes you sleepy. Also, did you know that you should try to sleep for a multiple of 90 minute intervals? Since REM cycles are 90 minutes each, waking up at the end of a cycle leaves you feeling refreshed and alert, while waking up in the middle of a cycle can make you feel sluggish. Aim to sleep for exactly 6, 7.5, or 9 hours–ideally, 9 hours.

2) Eat a good breakfast

The best breakfast for test day depends on your personal preferences, but it’s generally considered wise not to load up on sugars and carbs. Foods like eggs, fruit, and yogurt might be better than a cinnamon roll.

3) Drink coffee or tea if you normally do

Don’t radically up your caffeine dosage, but remember to allow yourself plenty of time for your morning beverage to kick in. My personal advice, again, is not to overdo it on sugar–and don’t have too much coffee on an empty stomach. There’s nothing worse than a terrible stomachache or uncontrollable jitters during the test.

4) Warm up your brain

There’s a reason people play “warm-up” games. It’s because we’re often not at our best when immediately diving into something. When I work with students, the first several questions they do tend to be trickier for them until they get in the zone. Do yourself a favor and get in the zone before you take the test. There’s nothing wrong with doing a few grammar questions while you have your morning coffee! Get in the habit of paying attention to every word.

5) Focus on details

Details are absolutely fundamental to the SAT and ACT. Whether it’s reading every word of the question, every word of the answer choices, holding each and every word accountable, or paying attention to each graph, table, or punctuation mark, details make or break your score. Guess what most students leave out of their essays, by the way? Details. Don’t gloss over them!

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