Most students never take a practice ACT exam. They just show up on Test Day and hope it goes well. Of course, you’re going to be a lot smarter than that. You’re going to take at least one practice test before the real day, and here are the top five reasons why:
1. Taking a practice test lowers your anxiety
The human brain is afraid of what it does not know. A lot of the anxiety you feel about the ACT or SAT is simply your uncertainty about what the test will be like. A practice test makes you familiar with the look, feel, and cadence of the exam. This familiarity wipes out your peripheral uncertainty about the test-taking experience, allowing you to focus on the content and problem-solving aspects of the exam.
2. A practice test gives you a baseline
Too many students underestimate the value of knowing their baseline ACT or SAT performance. Let’s say you’re shooting for a 30 on your ACT. If your first practice score is a 27, that’s a very, very different matter than if you come out batting 21. The bigger the gap between your baseline and your target, the more you’ll need to prep—and the more time you’ll need to give yourself to do it. You can’t make intelligent decisions about the quantity or timing of your prep if you don’t know your baseline.
3. Taking a practice test builds endurance
One thing a lot of students don’t realize is that sitting in one place answering questions for three hours wears you out. To get the highest score possible, you need to be as focused answering the last question of section 4 as you were answering the first question of section 1. That won’t happen if your every neuron is screaming for a nap.
Lifestyle factors such as sleep, diet, and exercise can naturally boost your energy and stamina, but you also need to train up for the specific challenge at hand. The more practice tests you take, the more endurance you’ll have on the real exam.
4. Test-taking is a skill to be learned
It’s no secret that the ACT and SAT test, as much as anything, your ability to take a test. And why shouldn’t they? You’re about to dive headlong into a 4-year cannonade of exams.
Here’s an interesting thing to consider: most students fear for their test-taking abilities, yet how many students actually practice taking tests? Sure, you take plenty of tests in high school, but those are all real. Issues such as test anxiety, which many students think are unavoidable and chronic, actually go away with practice.
5. Practice tests raise your score
With decades of research to look back on, learning scientists agree that the two best methods for learning something are flashcards and—you guessed it—practice tests. Taking a practice test and thoroughly reviewing it is a fantastic way to start boosting your ACT or SAT score, pure and simple.
If you’re the sort of person who reads an ACT/SAT prep blog in your spare time, I’m confident that you won’t skimp on your preparation for these important exams. Make sure your prep includes at least one practice test to fully maximize your advantage over the competition on Test Day.
Boris loves teaching complex problems and helping students overcome their Test Day fears. He brings his sense of humor to the classroom–as well as his love of strategy board games.