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What is the Best Time of Day to Take the SAT or ACT?

Unfortunately, the time of day to take the SAT and ACT is not something a student can decide. Test days and times are predetermined by the test administrators. If a perfect testing world existed, students could elect to take their standardized tests when they are most on their game. According to a study done in Denmark, this would means taking tests earlier in the day. The study shows that test performance decreases as the day wears on.

The study cites “cognitive fatigue” as a factor in lower test performance later in the day. While this may be just common sense, researchers have data to quantify the effect of “cognitive fatigue.”  A deeper dive into the study reveals something even more interesting: students that take breaks during tests can see improvements in performance. In other words, if a student is offered a break during a test, they should always take it. No matter what.  Students may have little control over the time of day the test is administered, but they can certainly advocate for more breaks. Even a quick stretch, some breathing exercises, a snack or a drink of water can help improve test performance.  Additionally, most students should understand that their test prep will be most productive in the morning before “cognitive fatigue” sets in. So when planning on a time of day to do a practice set or review content, plan for morning sessions if possible.  For more test taking tips and ways to improve SAT and ACT scores, contact CROSSWALK, the Monterey Peninsula’s local resource for tutoring and test prep. 

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