Mask Up and Grab Your #2 Pencil: Tips for taking the ACT during a pandemic


Taking the dreaded ACT can be scary enough as it is: pencils scratching, pages flipping, eying the clock like your life depends on it. Now add a pandemic into the mix, and things can go from relatively calm to extremely hectic just like that. Within an instant your social and school lives have changed, but the ACT is not normally a category that is given much attention regarding COVID-19, until it’s your turn to take it. 

Normally there is no doubt that when you sign up to take the ACT, you will report on to the testing center on your directed day and go through the tiring task of taking the actual test. This year, with the pandemic affecting everything we do, singing up to take the ACT is not necessarily a guaranteed thing. I’m not normally one to read the fine print on things, but when signing up for the ACT this fall I took special note to read the notice at the bottom of my confirmation email, informing me that test centers can close at any time. 

Studying for the ACT is a daunting task in normal times, and one that you do not want to have to do for any longer than you have to, but with the added notion that you may study just to find out your test got canceled, studying can go downhill quick. Tip #1: Just because it is not guaranteed that your test may actually happen does not mean that you should skip out on the studying, instead reliving your anxiety by binge watching Netflix. The best way to avoid pre-ACT anxiety is to pretend like the pandemic isn’t even happening, and to study as if it is certain that you will take the ACT.

Even if your test doesn’t get cancelled because of an outbreak, it is possible that you may get COVID, and not be able to test. Tip #2: Don’t worry about what you can’t control. Leading up to the test make sure to follow all the typical pandemic protocols (Do I even need to list them out? We are pretty much all pros at this point.), and hand sanitize on an hourly basis.

Leading up to the test, you will undoubtedly receive hundreds of emails (or so it seemed) reminding you to not only bring your test ID, calculator, and #2 pencils, but also a mask and hand sanitizer. Tip #3: The night before your test lay out everything you need to bring, so that when you roll out of bed in the morning trying to recall the quadratic formula, you don’t forget to grab your mask. 

On the occasion that you forget to bring a mask, most of the testing centers have disposable masks that they can give you. In addition to making sure your latest fashion accessory is properly being worn, the testing advisors will also ask you a series of health screening questions; just the usual, like if you have been around someone with COVID, or have a cough. 

My final tip for you is to believe in yourself! I know this sounds cheesy, but it’s true! The more that you believe you will do good, the better you will actually do. 

The pandemic may bring added concerns to testing day, but in reality it is the same ACT you would have taken regardless of COVID or not. So as you prepare for test day, remember to try your best, bring a #2 pencils, and wear a mask!