Information Brief 2012-49

Sleeping Well, Eating Breakfast, and Feeling Calm:

Experiences Related to ACT Scores

We asked students, each of whom had taken the ACT twice, several questions about particular physical and emotional experiences that could be related to test performance. The figure below illustrates several findings:

  • Students who reported sleeping 7–10 hours the night before the second test earned ACT Composite scores that were about one point higher, on average, than their scores on the first test. This average score change is noticeably larger than the average Composite score change of 0.5 points for students who slept relatively little (0–3 hours) the night before the second test.
  • Students who reported eating breakfast before the second test had larger average ACT Composite score changes (about 1.0 points) from the first to the second test than did students who reported not eating breakfast (0.7 points).
  • Students who reported having no trouble finding the testing site for the second test outperformed those who did have trouble and who also reported thinking that this experience hurt their test performance (average Composite score change of 0.9 vs. 0.4 points, respectively).
  • Students who reported feeling so stressed or anxious while taking the second test that they believe it affected their performance had smaller average Composite score changes (0.7 points) than did those who reported not feeling this way (1.2 points).

Score Changes of Students Who Took the ACT on Two Occasions

Experiences Related to Score Changes
Before the 2nd test (or during the 2nd test in the case of stress/anxiety issues)
Average composite score change, 1st to 2nd test
Slept 7–10 hours (n=2,777)1.0
Slept 0–3 hours (n=54)0.5
Had breakfast (n=3,022)1.0
Did not have breakfast (n=656)0.7
Had no trouble finding test site (n=926)0.9
Had trouble finding test site; thought that hurt score (n=96)0.4
Did not feel stress or anxiety (n=2,128)1.2
Felt stress or anxiety (n=1,448)0.7

Note: Data are from 3,818 students who took the ACT twice, either for the first time in fall 2007 and for the second time in spring 2008, or for the first time in spring 2008 and for the second time in fall 2008. The students also completed a survey pertaining to test preparation activities.

More Information Briefs for more information or to suggest ideas for future ACT Information Briefs.