5 Quick Tips for Avoiding Careless Mistakes on ACT or SAT Test Day

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1. Read the question carefully the first time through

This one seems obvious, but many students rush through the question, only to waste time after trying to sort through what the test really asked them to find. Take your time reading the question on your first attempt. If you understand what is asked of you, be thorough in working to the correct answer. If you are confused, don’t get emotional or frantic - just guess quickly and move on.


2. Remember to focus only on the question you are working on

Many students become so frustrated by and fixated on questions that they can’t solve that they lose their focus on subsequent questions. Avoid thinking about your score or your goals within the test. Take a deep breath when you are stuck or distracted and move forward - the only thing you can control is the question directly in front of you.


3. Predict an answer before looking at the answer choices.

Most students will do this naturally on the math section, but it works just as well on the other sections of these tests. If you predict an answer before looking at the choices on the reading, you should be able to sort through the answers more quickly. On grammar, identifying the error before you look at the answers will similarly help you select the correct choice more quickly and effectively.

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4. On math, quickly re-read the stem of the questions before choosing an answer

When many students get to the moment when they have solved for the value of a variable or a measurement, they immediately look to the answers to see whether it is there. Try to fight this instinct, and go back to the stem of the question instead. This tip can help you avoid the classic mistake of selecting the answer that gives the value of y instead of x or the area instead of the perimeter. 


5. Pace yourself

If you have taken enough practice tests, you should have a good sense for your timing on these tests. If you have to push yourself to move quickly in order to finish a certain section, then you have to be a bit forgiving with yourself and understand that errors due to miscalculations or misreading of the text will be inevitable. However, if you consistently finish a section with extra time, force yourself to slow down and fully reason through each question.