What to Take and Not to Take to the ACT Test (page 3)
What to Take to the ACT
If you can't borrow the brain of that whiz kid in your calculus class for the day, you're stuck using your own. To compensate, be sure that you have the following with you before you leave for the ACT test center:
- Admission ticket: You should receive your ticket in the mail by about two weeks before the exam. If you don't have the ticket by then or if you got it but lost it, call the ACT Test Administration at 319-337-1270.
- Pencils: Take a bunch of sharpened No. 2 pencils with you. You may also want to take a big eraser (nothing personal — everyone makes mistakes) and a small pencil sharpener.
- Map or directions: Go to the test center a few days before the actual exam, and scope out your driving route and parking area. Often, the ACT is given at colleges that have parking lots far, far away from the test rooms. Drive to the college a few days in advance, park your car, and see just how long it takes you to get to the room. You don't need the stress of having to run to the test room at the last minute on test day.
- Clothing: Rumor has it some weird kids are lobbying for a special Nude ACT. Until it becomes available, though, you need to have some sort of external covering. Take a few extra layers. Schools that host the ACT often turn off the heat for the weekend (the ACT is usually offered on a Saturday), and the test room can be freezing cold. Alternately, in the summer, schools turn off the air conditioning, making the room boiling hot. Dress in layers and be prepared for anything.
- Photo ID: Showing the birthmark your boyfriend or girlfriend thinks is so cute isn't going to cut it with the test proctor. You need to bring a photo ID (student ID, driver's license, passport, military ID, FBI Most Wanted mug shot, whatever). If you don't have a photo ID, you can bring a letter of identification from your school. (The ACT website, www. act student. org, goes into detail about what this letter entails; we don't want to bore you with that information here.)
- Eyeglasses: Students taking the ACT frequently forget their reading glasses at home and then squint for the four long hours of the test. The ACT is enough of a headache on its own; you don't need eyestrain, as well. If you wear contacts, be sure to bring cleaning/ wetting solution in case you have to take the lenses out and reinsert them. (Hey, all those tears can really mess up your lenses!)
- Snack: True, you get only one ten-minute break between the Math and Reading Tests, but that's enough time to gobble down something to jump-start your brain. We often suggest taking an energy bar or some peanuts, something with protein and carbohydrates. Scarfing down a candy bar is actually counterproductive; your sugar levels rise only momentarily and then drop down below where they were before you had your chocolate fix.
- Watch: Keeping track of time on your own timepiece is more efficient than wasting precious seconds seeking out the clock on the testing site wall. Place your watch on the desk where you can refer to it easily throughout the exam. If your watch has an alarm, turn it off so that you don't disturb the other students. If you don't know how to do so, borrow another watch. The proctor will take a beeping watch away from you.
- Calculator: The ACT gurus allow you to use a calculator only on the Mathematics Test. Although the ACT information bulletin has an entire quarter page detailing which calculators you can and cannot use, for all practical purposes, you can use any calculator (yes, even a graphing calculator) as long as it doesn't make a noise or have a computer algebra system. Make sure the one you bring has at least a square root function and, ideally, basic trigonometry functions. You may not use a laptop computer (don't laugh; you'd be surprised by how many students want to bring one to the test!) or a pocket organizer.
What Not to Take to the ACT
Do not, we repeat do not, take the following items with you to the ACT test room:
- Cellphones and other electronic devices: Leave your cellphone in the car. You aren't allowed to bring it into the test room. One student we know was dismissed from the test because he accidentally left his cellphone in his pocket, and it rang during the exam. The same goes for other electronics, such as iPads, PC tablets, or anything else that can access the Internet.
- Books and notes: Take it from us: Last-minute studying doesn't do much good. So leave all your books at home; you aren't allowed to take them into the test room with you. (Just be sure to fill your parents in on this rule. We once had a student whose mother drove all the way to the test center with her daughter's ACT prep book, thinking the girl needed it for the test. The mom actually pulled the girl out of the test to give her the book, resulting in the girl's nearly being disqualified from the test.)
- Scratch paper: You may not bring your own scratch paper to the test, and you don't receive any scratch paper during the exam. Fortunately, the exam booklet has plenty of blank space on which you can do your calculations.
Surviving the ACT With Four Stress-Busters
Most people are tense before a test and often feel butterflies dancing in their stomachs. The key is to use relaxation techniques that keep your mind on your test and not on your tummy. To avoid becoming paralyzed by a frustrating question during the test, we suggest that you develop and practice a relaxation plan (perhaps one that includes the techniques we describe in the following sections). At the first sign of panic, take a quick timeout. You'll either calm down enough to handle the question, or you'll get enough perspective to realize that it's just one little test question and not worth your anguish. Mark your best guess and move on. If you have time, you can revisit the question later.
Practice a quick relaxation routine in the days before you take the exam so that you know just what to do when you feel panicky on test day.
Stressing out causes you to tighten up and take quick breaths, which doesn't do much for your oxygen intake. Restore the steady flow of oxygen to your brain by inhaling deeply. Feel the air go all the way down to your toes. Hold it and then let it all out slowly. Repeat this process again several times.
Stretching a Little
Anxiety causes your muscles to get all tied up in knots. Combat its evil effects by focusing on reducing your muscle tension while breathing deeply. If you feel stress in your neck and shoulders, also do a few stretches in these areas to get the blood flowing. You can shrug your shoulders toward your ears, roll your head slowly in a circle, stretch your arms over your head, or even open your mouth wide as if to say "Ahhh." (But don't actually say it out loud.)
Thinking Positive Thoughts
Any time you feel yourself starting to panic or thinking negative thoughts, make a conscious effort to say to yourself, "Stop! Don't dwell on anything negative." Then switch over to a positive track. For example, suppose you catch yourself thinking, "Why didn't I study this math more? I saw that formula a hundred times but can't remember it now!" Change the script to, "I got most of this math right; if I leave my subconscious to work on that formula, maybe I'll get it, too. No sense worrying now. Overall, I think I'm doing great!"
The ACT isn't the end-all, be-all of your life. Cut (yourself some slack on test day. You probably won't feel comfortable about every question, so don't beat yourself up when you feel confused. If you've tried other relaxation efforts and you still feel frustrated about a particular question, fill in your best guess and mark it in your test booklet in case you have time to review it at the end, but don't think about it until then. Put your full effort into answering the remaining questions. Focus on the positive, congratulate yourself for the answers you feel confident about, and force yourself to leave the others behind.
Before the exam or during the break, practice visualization. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in the test room cheerfully looking at questions that you know the answers to, filling in the bubble grids to the right answers, finishing early, and double-checking your work. Picture yourself leaving the exam room all uplifted and then getting your scores and rejoicing five weeks later. Think of how proud of you your parents are. Imagine getting an acceptance letter from the college of your dreams. Picture yourself driving a fire-engine-red Ferrari ten years from now, telling the Time magazine reporter in the passenger seat that your success started with your excellent ACT scores. The goal here is to associate the ACT with good feelings.
Don't practice visualization during the test; you just waste time and lose concentration.
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