Top 5 SAT & ACT Prep Tips That Will Help You Score Big

Sep 11, 2018 | College Admissions

There are hundreds of study tips for preparing for the SAT or ACT. Depending on your personality, learning style, and life situation, some will work better for you than others. But here are my top 5 picks, which in my experience are important for every student, regardless of personality or situation. Putting these tips into practice will dramatically increase your chances of scoring high on your standardized college tests.

1. Decide which test is best for you and when to take it

Don’t just do what everyone else is doing. Try both the SAT and the ACT to see which one fits you best. All colleges take both tests.

Get an official guide book for each test (or find it online) and take their practice test. Check that you’re practicing on an official test that was given in the recent past. Duplicate the test-taking situation: Take the test on paper, in a quiet area, following the exact time allowances for each section.

Taking both tests will help you recognize your personal strengths and weaknesses. Evaluate what you think you need to do to increase your score. It’s often helpful to have a parent or coach help you with this.

Once you’ve decided which test is better for you, register for the test, picking a time that’s not too busy in your life and that allows time to study. Don’t wait too long, though, so you can plan to retake it.

2. Create a study plan

Think of it as a map. You can’t get from Point A to Point B without knowing where you’re going or how you’ll get there. The same is true for any goal, and scoring well on your SAT is an important goal that needs a clear plan of attack. Counting back from the date of the test, plan what to study when, considering what needs more study time and allowing for busy times in your life. 

3. Learn the strategies specific to the test you’re taking

You don’t just need to learn the content, you need to learn how to take the test. There are certain strategies unique to each test, regarding the types of questions to answer first, how much time to allow for each question in each section, and how to eliminate wrong answers.  

Know your calculator. There are calculator functions that will speed you quickly through the test. Make sure you’re using a calculator that’s approved for your test, however. Unapproved calculators will be confiscated and you’ll be left with nothing.

4. Don’t go it alone

Get the official study guide and some other great books, but don’t rule out getting help. A tutor, an online course, or a coach can help you with difficult material or just help you stay on track.

5. Follow healthy habits

Though it’s easier said than done, don’t stress over this. Follow the steps above and maintain a plan of good sleeping habits and healthy eating. Leave the week prior to the test for general review, not for cramming.

Bonus tip: Learn from your test to prepare for your next

After you leave the test, congratulate yourself with a treat, but then write down some thoughts about the test. What was easier than expected? What did you struggle with? What might you do differently next time? After you get the results, review them and use them to prepare for a retake, if necessary.

We are passionate about helping young people succeed. If you need help preparing a plan of action or sticking to it, contact us to see how we can help you.