So you’ve practiced, registered, and driven to the test site. But what actually happens behind those closed doors? It’s nearly impossible to create a practice environment that will mimic the environment of the test. However, knowing what to expect on test day can help calm nerves and improve scores. It’s important to stay flexible as your experience can vary from one site to another and one proctor to another. However, here is a little bit of what you can expect on test day.
Before you get to the test you should know what to bring with you and where to drive and park. If you don’t know these things about your testing site do some research so that you are well prepared on test day. When you first arrive, you’ll see a check in table. Take your ID and your entrance ticket to the table to check in. They’ll compare the picture on your ID and your ticket to your face, check your information, and give you directions to your testing room. They may also check you for non-allowed items. There is often a long line to check in. Arrive early to avoid having to wait and worry! Once you arrive at the test room the proctor should again check your face to either your ticket or ID. Generally, the proctor will then direct you to a specific seat, though some allow seat choice.
From the time you check in until you walk out the door after the test is totally over, you may NOT touch any electronic devices. The best option is to leave them at home or in the glove compartment of your car. If you choose to take it into the test it should be completely powered down. Not on silent, not on airplane mode, but OFF. If your phone goes off during the test you will be excused and your test will not be scored. In addition, the other students in your room may also be excused as well. Nothing is worth that. Don’t touch any electronic devices!
Before the test, you should hear the same instructions regardless of what site you’re at. The proctor will tell you exactly what to do, what to fill in, and any other pertinent information. Then, you begin the test.
Timing is standard across the board. Make sure you know how much time you get for each section of the test. The tests companies do not require that there be a clock in the room where you test, so make sure that you take your own watch. The proctor is required to give you a five-minute warning. Some proctors may be nice and give you more updates- I know of one site that even starts a giant countdown on the whiteboard- but the five-minute warning is the only one that you can count on receiving.
You entitled to a 15 minute break halfway through the test. During this break the proctor may make you all get up and leave the room or he or she may allow you to stay, but this break is mandated by the test company. Make use of it. Even if the proctor allows you to remain in the room, get up and leave. You should eat a snack, stretch your legs, drink some water, and use the restroom. Do not sit in your seat and stare at the wall for 15 minutes. That is just enough time for your brain to shut off!
The environment of the room should be comfortable. There shouldn’t be noise, and it shouldn’t be freezing cold or boiling hot. You shouldn’t be easily distracted by anything going on within the room or nearby. In short, there should be no distractions that would continually take your attention away from the test.
If any of these things go wrong. If the proctor messes up the timing, if the fluorescent light above you is strobing throughout the test, if you don’t get your break, or if anything else is done that is not according to the testing guidelines, you should report it to the testing company. Testing companies work very hard to ensure that the tests are administered under fair and uniform conditions. If it is found that a mistake or disturbance did occur, the testing companies will to their best to make it right, from a refund to a free re-take.
Finally, if you’re taking the ACT you may encounter a section of the test that you’re not expecting. Sometimes, the ACT will have a 5th section after the final normal test. This section DOES NOT affect your score in any way. The ACT is merely using you as a guinea pig to test out some new passages and questions that they may use in the future. Everyone may have different questions, and some students may not get a 5th section at all. Do your best on this section to help future students have a fair test, but don’t let it stress you out in any way!
I hope you have found this information helpful in preparing for your test!