How to tackle nerves on the ACT

ACT test anxiety
By Tiwa

ACTSo you’ve decided to take the ACT! As an experience tutor of this test, one common pattern I see in my students is a fear of taking the exam. After all, for many people, this is the first large standardized test they’ve ever encountered. Although it might seem daunting, with some hard work, the test can be manageable. Here are some tips to help guide you as you prepare to take the ACT:

You know more than you think

Although it can be written in a confusing manner, the ACT tests concepts that you’ve learned throughout high school. When the test feels confusing, it’s helpful to take a deep breath and remember that you know more than you think you know. One of the most common pitfalls my students fall into has to do with confidence – once they get a few problems wrong, they start to believe they aren’t capable of doing well on the test. When this happens, I always try and redirect their focus to the core concepts being tested. Each and every question has a core concept that you’ve learned before in class; your job is to identify the core concept and apply your knowledge to the question being asked of you.

Practice makes perfect

Using practice exams can help build confidence. Once you get used to the format and timing, the ACT feels more familiar and a lot less scary. When you know what to expect, you start to minimize the surprises you experience while taking the test which helps with controlling nerves. In order to take practice exams and try out practice problems, it’s important to leave yourself enough time before exam day to practice. Spreading out practice over the course of a few months can help build routine and ease nerves!

Tips and Tricks

As you continue to practice, you’ll find tips and tricks to save you time. Tips like focused reading on the reading section, plug and chug on the math sections, and a cache of grammar rules for the writing section can help cut down on time and stress as you approach new problems. You can use these tricks to supplement the material and concepts you’ve learned throughout high school.

Hopefully these three guidelines help calm your nerves as you approach test day! The ACT might be a new experience, but there’s no need to be scared of it. Good luck!

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Taking the ACT in 2020? Here are some other helpful blog posts below!

Don't fear the Splice! Mastering ACT English's "gotcha" questions

Tips for Studying Effectively for the SAT and ACT

The ACT Reading Test: Understanding (and moving up) its Bell Curve


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