pencil on test form

If you’re like most students, tests are a pretty big part of your academic life. From AP exams to SATs to end of year finals, you’re going to face quite a few “test days” during the school year. Here’s a list of some of our best test day tips to help you get through with flying colors.

Bring your lucky charm.

Whatever your superstition of choice might be, indulge it. Logically, there probably isn’t a connection between wearing your lucky socks and acing your finals, but studies show that lucky charms can actually boost test performance. Researchers at the University of Cologne in Germany found that students who brought lucky charms on test day reported increased confidence and higher goals, which may explain why they outperformed students who did not have their lucky charms.

Wear comfy layers.

Multiple studies have shown a link between physical comfort and test performance. You won’t be able to adjust the thermostat in your testing room, but you can layer up so that you can make yourself comfortable even in a freezing classroom or stuffy auditorium.


Most people don’t drink enough water, but recent research shows that being even the tiniest bit dehydrated negatively impacts brain function. A well-hydrated brain is better able to focus and recall information—tasks that are pretty important for good test scores. Avoid sugary drinks or drinks that are high in caffeine and opt for a glass of water before your big test. But maybe not too much water…you don’t have unlimited bathroom breaks, after all.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

There’s some debate about whether you really need breakfast every day, but on test day definitely eat breakfast. Studies show that students who eat a healthy breakfast are better able to concentrate and earn higher test scores than students who skip breakfast. Avoid sugar and opt for protein for sustained energy and focus during your long tests.

Make like a Boy Scout—be prepared.

Reduce stress and boost confidence by making sure you have everything you need the night before. If you’re taking finals at school, you might just need some pencils or pens, but if you’re taking the SAT, ACT, or AP exams, you’ll also need your photo ID, registration information, and approved calculator. Put everything in your bag the night before, along with your keys, a bottle of water, and a snack. That way you won’t feel rushed in the morning.

Take a deep breath—beat anxiety.

Nothing tanks a test score faster than nerves. If you’re one of the thousands of students who freeze up on tests, master some anxiety-busting techniques to pull out on test day. Some students swear by deep breathing while others prefer visualization. Sometimes even just shifting positions in your seat can help bust through the nerves. The University of Michigan has a great resource for mastering relaxation skills that combat anxiety. We also have a great post on how to deal with test anxiety.

Get a good night’s sleep.

Studies show that a good night’s sleep positively influences concentration, memory, and motivation—so it comes as no surprise that a good night’s sleep also leads to better test scores. In fact, one group of researchers found that students who got plenty of sleep during exams week score 10% higher than those who did not meet sleep recommendations. 10% can be 160 SAT points or the difference between a 4 and a 5 on an AP exam, all from catching some z’s.

DON’T cram.

If you have a choice between a good night’s sleep and several hours of last minute studying, go for the sleep. Studies show that the extra sleep will have a more positive impact on test scores than the extra studying. In fact, a last minute marathon study session isn’t likely to help your test scores even if you don’t sacrifice sleep for it. Studying slowly over a long period of time allows your mind to fully process and properly store new information, making it easier to access specific pieces of knowledge when you need to. Cramming, as the term implies, just jams a bunch of information in willy-nilly. Think of it like packing a suitcase: you can find the specific pair of socks you need much more easily if the suitcase is neatly organized than if you just crammed a bunch of stuff in there.

Getting Test Prep Help

Hopefully, these tips will help give you a confidence boost as you get closer to test day. But don’t forget the most important thing to ensure good tests scores – really knowing your stuff! That takes time and effort to truly understand the material you’re going to be tested. You can always visit your local C2 center for a free consultation on a personalized study plan.