Test Prep Tips for the ACT and SAT
When preparing for the ACT or SAT it’s important to develop an effective test prep strategy. From selecting the right test to setting score goals and creating a testing timeline, a good test prep plan can make all the difference in students’ performance on the ACT or SAT. Here are some test prep tips to help students prepare for the SAT or ACT.
How to Prep for the SAT and ACT
While you know you need to prepare for standardized testing, getting started may be daunting. It can feel like there is a lot of pressure on these tests with little idea of what to expect. Here are some basics to get you started:
Practice, Practice, Practice!
Practice makes perfect, and when it comes to standardized tests, practice can make a huge difference. By taking practice exams under timed conditions, students become more familiar with the test, and can even improve their SAT score by 30 points just through one practice test. When preparing for the ACT or SAT, set aside time to take timed practice tests – at least three or four – before test day. Not only will this help students become more familiar with the test itself, but they’ll be also better acclimated to the pacing required to complete the test within the time constraints.
Schedule Your Study Time
Life’s a lot easier when you stick to a schedule, and the same applies to test-prep. If students set aside study time in their daily routine, they’re less likely to skip it for something else. Schedule an hour or two each day to review practice tests and work on specific skills or sections with which you have the most trouble. Set small, attainable goals, and reward yourself for studying! If your friends want to hang out but you need to study, study first then join them later as a reward to yourself for sticking to your plan. In the end it will pay off!
Utilize Online Resources
There are a plethora of SAT and ACT test prep resources online that you can use to help you reach your goal score. Check the College Board’s SAT site for official practice questions and answer explanations. The ACT website also has an entire practice section with sample questions from each section of the exam. Other resources like Khan Academy are free and can help you enrich your test prep.
What to Know About SAT and ACT Prep
There are some important things to keep in mind when prepping for the SAT or ACT. Here are four helpful tips to keep in mind to help you stay on track:
1. You Get What You Put In
When it comes to preparing for the ACT and SAT, it can be easy to forget that you get out what you put in. At the end of the day, your results will be directly proportional to your efforts, and this is sometimes an easy idea to forget. Test prep consistency is the first step towards success on the SAT or ACT. This works not just for test prep but also with many other things that are part of your educational and college prep journey—from doing your best in school to any complex skill that requires long-term practice.
2. Sometimes Less is More
Knowing effective test-taking strategies is key! Why? Because not all questions are equally valuable to the individual test-taker. For example, if you’re scoring below 650 on either section of the SAT (or the equivalent on any subject of the ACT), then you will actually want to skip some of the questions in that section—at least at first. A hard question that takes four minutes or more is only worth the same 1 point as an easy or medium question that might only take a minute. This means the hard problem is actually less valuable to most students who are still working on raising their scores because they could do about three questions in the same amount of time and get 2-3 points instead of just 0-1 from the hard question.
3. Don’t Cram Before the Exam
This is another example where “less is more.” During the last school week before an official ACT or SAT exam, students often need to be reminded that they shouldn’t study too much. Why? In order for students to get their best scores on the ACT or SAT, their ability to concentrate mentally will be much more important than how much they have learned during the last week leading up to the exam.
Well-prepared students have a specific checklist that they use during the last week of the exam to ensure that they are not studying too much for the exam. Cramming the week before the SAT or ACT can cause students to go into the test mentally exhausted, when they really need to be rested and ready to concentrate. This is why the previous weeks and months leading up to the SAT or ACT are even more important than many students realize. Students need to use that time to improve their scores effectively so that they are as prepared as possible for the official test day.
4. Know When to Ask for Help
Still struggling with your test prep schedule or just not seeing any improvement in your practice tests? Know when to turn to a professional tutor for help. Many times, a tutor can meet with students immediately and help them identify which areas to focus on and how to improve in the weeks or days before the test. At IvyWise, we offer SAT and ACT tutoring services for students at any stage in the test prep process, whether they’re just getting started or they need some last-minute help before test-day. Want more information on our tutoring services? Contact us today.
What other strategies are you using to prepare for the SAT or ACT? Tell us in the comments below!