The night before a test day can be stressful. This is why it is extremely important to have a pre-test routine to guarantee you are setting yourself up for success on test day.

By: Katelyn Pramberger, Political Science and Human and Organizational Development at Vanderbilt University, 2023


  • Eat smart

Someone once told me that an ACT/SAT test is like running a marathon. It might sound tempting to fill yourself with comfort food to ease your test day jitters, but nourishing your brain with nutritious food is essential to setting yourself up for success. Test days are long and stressful so it is important to fuel our brains for the day ahead. Eating a balanced breakfast of protein, such as bananas, avocados, and fruit, and even a green smoothie, the day before and day of a test will do wonders. Along with this, energy snacks such as trail mix, protein bars, and almonds help to keep your energy up during a test. It is also important to drink a lot of water. These protein-heavy foods help to improve mental clarity and concentration and water improves concentration and physical energy.

  • Exercise

The day before a test can be a very stressful time. Exercising is a great way to alleviate stress and get your endorphins running. Something as little as a 15 minute walk can help shake off those nerves. Also, studies have shown that exercise improves memory and brainpower. Exercising before studying or taking an exam also helps with memory retention.

  • Prepare Materials the Night Before

No one wants to wake up on a test day and worry about missing their test or forgetting their materials. This is why it is quintessential to prepare materials the night before. I recommend creating a list of materials you need (i.e. a charged calculator, at least three number two pencils, water, and a granola bar) and gathering those the night before. This helps to prevent any forgetfulness the day of that can cause unnecessary stress. I also recommend setting your clothes out the night before to avoid spending extra time choosing what to wear.

  • Map out your test day

Test centers can be farther away than we expect and we can run into stressful situations if we don’t accurately plan ahead. This is why I recommend mapping out your test day. First, find out how far away your test center is. Second, make sure you have someone to drive you/some form of transportation and agree on a certain time to go to the test center. For this step I would say to give yourself 20-30 more minutes than you need to get to your location. This will ensure you are prepared if you run into a conflict. Third, I highly recommend setting multiple alarms the night before a test to give yourself ample time to get ready and mentally prepare for the day ahead.

  • Self care

Usually the day before a test is when we want to obsess over studying materials. I am going to say this point blank: don’t do this. You have been preparing for this test with ample time and grinding the day before will only lead to more stress. You know everything you know which is why self care is very important the day before a test. Take a shower (or bath), light a few candles, and do some mediation. These activities will help to calm your nerves and enhance clarity. Many times we choose to worry about the future when we need to live in the present moment and take care of ourselves physically and mentally. This is why self-care before bed is essential to guarantee success on test day.

  • Get enough sleep

Last but not least: get enough sleep! This is the #1 most important step. Sleep plays a vital role in guaranteeing good health and well-being. Getting enough sleep will put you in a better mood, increase productivity and concentration, and improve your memory. I recommend getting in bed at 9:30-10:00pm the night before a test. 


If you follow all of these recommendations I guarantee that you will set yourself up for success on test day! Good luck!

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