What No One Tells You About Taking Standardized Tests

Think you know everything about taking the SAT or ACT? These test-taking tips may surprise you...

Before you go into the SAT or ACT thinking you’ve heard everything about the tests, I want to share some test-taking tips that may surprise you.

Here are a few things the test makers and prep teachers don’t tell you about test day…

Loooong lines

The ACT and SAT test makers usually tell you to get to the test center at a little before 8:00 am, the supposed start time. However, I suggest getting there around 7:25 am.

Of course, it depends on the popularity of your test center, but from my experience, you should be in the registration line by 7:30–7:45. You don’t want to be the one person holding up your room to start testing, do you? (No, you don’t. No one likes that person.) Besides, being early never hurt anyone.

So nervous you could puke—literally

I know, I know. You may not be nervous about taking the tests at all. However, the students around you very well may be.

I have personally seen frantic crying, last-minute equation cramming—even nervous pukers. It was not pleasant. Mentally prepare yourself before the test, and don’t let these distractions deter you from your goal: acing the ACT or SAT.


I don’t know about you, but I’m always freezing in classrooms. If you’re familiar with your testing location, you can probably anticipate if it is going to be hot or cold in the classroom, so dress accordingly! But, if you have never been to your testing location, it’s a great idea to dress in layers…just like your parents used to tell you. Being uncomfortable with the temperature is not a fun way to spend four hours or more testing. Layers, layers, layers!

Bathroom breaks

Many times I have been too scared to take a potty break because I was afraid I wouldn’t be back to the testing room in time. However, after venturing out to the restrooms my last time taking the ACT, I can affirm that you will have time. It’s not a good idea to “hold it in”; that just leads to more issues.

All packed up and somewhere to be

Okay, so maybe you have heard this standardized test tip before—but only because it’s so important! Gather your sharpened pencils, printed admission ticket, charged calculator, and hearty snack the night before the big day so you are not stressing about any of these the morning of the test.

Giving yourself 10–15 extra minutes in the morning of the ACT or SAT can also allow you to eat a nutritious breakfast (not just a Starbucks Frappuccino) and get yourself psyched for the upcoming standardized test.

I hope these five little-known tips help in your preparation for the next SAT or ACT. Remember, anything is bound to happen on test day, so just be alert and ready for any obstacle so you can overcome it and ace the test!

So, were you surprised by these standardized test tips? Were you warned about puking students and freezing classrooms?!?! Or do you have any tips to add? Leave a comment or let us know on Twitter.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


About Sydney Missigman

Sydney Missigman

Sydney is a current high school junior living in Arizona. She has never met an extracurricular activity she didn’t like. She is a member of National Honor Society and is involved in her school newspaper, Key Club, tutoring club, and student ambassador program, having leadership roles in many of these. She is in her third year of Spanish classes and is a TA for her Spanish teacher. Sydney loves using the power of the written word to connect with people throughout the world. Her family, studies, and service work are just a few of her many passions.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Kelly Nogueiro

Kelly Nogueiro


For me, CollegeXpress has given me a valuable tool to use with my students to explore colleges easily beyond objective data. It helps me find colleges for students that fit their needs and wants that aren’t quite so black and white. It's a wealth of knowledge, and the Type-A side of me loves all the lists and the fact that I know they're coming from folks who know what they're talking about. I share it with colleagues and students alike, and it's always well received.

Brooke Maggio

Brooke Maggio

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me tremendously in my college search in narrowing down the schools I’m interested in. Using the college search tool, I was able to narrow down my choices to schools that matched what I was looking for. I also used CollegeXpress for their scholarship search, which helped me find scholarships that I meet the requirements of.

Maria  Fernanda

Maria Fernanda

High School Class of 2023

CollegeXpress is always telling you with time to spare when to apply for certain scholarships, what they require, and if you’re eligible or not. They also provide helpful tips for both incoming college students and current college students, such as what to absolutely have in your dorm.



High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me find Allegheny College with the super-user-friendly search tool for both schools and scholarships. Using CollegeXpress, I was able to search for programs I was interested in studying and find colleges that offered those programs. Also, once you search for the college, CollegeXpress can get you connected!

Yuhlani Patterson

Yuhlani Patterson

High School Student

CollegeXpress has helped me find so many scholarships that fit me. They match me to colleges I have specific interest in to make searching for colleges way easier and more efficient. CollegeXpress refers me to schools that have my major of interest and backup schools if I want to change my mind. CollegeXpress also gives out their own scholarships, so you have even more of a chance at gaining multiple scholarships. This website has helped me de-stress from the pressure of not being able to afford college, [of finding] what schools are right for me, and how to find easy access to scholarships that most people never knew existed.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

John Carroll University

University Heights, OH