Home / Blog / Building Test Endurance

Building Test Endurance

Small Logo on Transparent BG

The ACT and SAT are long tests. Not including breaks, the ACT clocks in at 2 hours, 55 minutes and the SAT at exactly 3 hours. If you take the optional essay section, you are looking at an additional 40 and 50 minutes, respectively. The sheer length of the tests means that test fatigue is a serious problem for students taking either exam. Today we’re going to offer some tips for combating test-fatigue and building up your test-taking endurance.


Do Full Practice Tests

The best and most accurate way to build up your test endurance is to do several full length practice tests. Set aside several hours on the weekend and work through a practice exam exactly as you would a real ACT or SAT. Create a distraction-free environment, follow the time limits, and take only one short break (10 minutes max) midway through. Make no mistake: this will be extremely difficult when you start. You will likely hit a “wall” before you finish your first practice test. You’ll begin to feel tired, and your scores will suffer as a result. Don’t let yourself be discouraged by this. As you continue to do practice tests, this wall will get pushed further and further back, and your scores in the later portions of the ACT/SAT will increase accordingly.


Avoid “Accidental” Breaks

I recently had a student who encountered serious test fatigue during the exam. This student was extremely diligent and had taken countless practice tests. Looking back on his test-taking history, however, this student realized that he had unconsciously been giving himself much longer breaks than he would get on the real test. He’d break for a “quick” lunch, which sometimes wound up taking as much as half an hour. When he continued a practice exam, he’d be fully rested and recharged.


This is just one example of how you can give yourself an accidental break while practicing. Another good example is when you receive a call or text from a friend. You may be tempted to reply, think that doing so will only take a few minutes. In reality, it’s incredibly easy to get side-tracked with something like this. You would probably rather be texting with a friend than taking a practice test (I know I would), so a “quick” reply to a text can easily grow into a 15 minute text conversation. Better instead to turn your phone off and leave it off until you complete the practice test. Let your friends know that you are serious about improving your score on the ACT or SAT and that you will be unavailable whenever you are working on a practice test.


Spend Long Blocks of Time on Schoolwork

Another sure-fire way to boost your test endurance is to work on school assignments in larger chunks. Try to do all of your daily homework in one or two sittings. Write your first draft of an assigned paper in one session. In some ways, this can actually be more difficult than doing a break-free practice ACT or SAT. Chances are you’ll naturally want to break up a difficult assignment into multiple sessions, even though you know that you will end up spending more time on it in the long run. As with full practice tests, doing your assignments with minimal breaks will get easier the more that you do it. Eventually, you’ll be finishing your homework faster, allowing yourself more uninterrupted free time at the end of the day. In addition, you’ll be strengthening your test “muscles” while doing so.


Don’t Over-Study the Day Before

We’ve covered this before but it bears repeating here: do not over-study the day before or stay up late studying the night before the test. Getting in one last round of practice might seem like a good idea, but if you’re not ready at this point, cramming isn’t going to help. All it will do is make you tired and burnt out for the actual test. Instead, review everything once, do something not test-related to wear yourself out, and go to bed early. Get up early enough the day of the test that you have time for breakfast and don’t have to rush getting to the testing site.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,