Studying for the SAT or ACT is a big undertaking, and you may be wondering where to begin. A good way to get started is to learn about the overall structure of the exams and how to best refine your strategy for success on every section. In this article, we give you list of the top 5 tips that you should be using to achieve your best SAT and ACT scores.
SAT / ACT Study Tips
Tip 1: Do Full-Length Practice Tests
Practice tests, practice tests, practice tests. You shouldn’t be binging on Netflix, you should be binging on practice tests. You should be doing as many practice tests as humanly possible leading up to your exams. We recommend at least 50 hours of prep before taking the SAT or ACT to ensure you get your best scores.
Tip 2: Simulate Real Testing Conditions
When taking practice tests, you should ALWAYS simulate real test-taking conditions, meaning you should pretend each practice test is the real exam. As such, you should time every section practice section and be strict about not letting yourself go over. If you don’t finish, bubble in and guess on the remaining answers just as if it were a real exam. You can go back afterwards and do the problems you missed individually, but don’t include those in your actual score. Also, we recommend taking your practice tests at the same time the actual exams are administered (for example, since SAT starts between 8:30-9:00am, so should your practice tests). We understand that most of you are in school all week, so plan to and reserve one weekend morning for your practice tests. For best results, review the official test-day conditions for the SAT and ACT.
Tip 3: Time Yourself Using A Wrist Watch
What most of you may refer to as dinosaurs, wrist watches can be extremely useful for standardized tests like the SAT and ACT. That’s because you’re allowed to bring a wrist watch into both exams allowing you to keep track of time and pace yourself on each section. During the test, you can either keep it on your wrist or set it on the table in front of you. Make sure whatever watch you purchase does not have an alarm and is completely silent – trust us, you don’t want to hear a distracting *tick* *tick* *tick* while your work. On the SAT and ACT, timing is everything. So, always pace yourself with a wrist watch during practice tests.
You can use either a digital or analog watch, but no smart watches!
Tip 4: Stick To A Study Schedule
The keyword here is “stick” - that’s the part that troubles most students. Making a schedule is easy, the difficult part is keeping to your schedule. You need to assess your own study habits and craft a schedule that you know you can abide by. Be honest with yourself about how long you can actually focus, and schedule in study breaks as needed (typically, a 15-30 minute break is best).
Tip 5: Do Blind Grading
To get the most out of your test prep, we recommend a blind grading procedure. That means, when grading a practice test or individual section, you should not look at the questions. Instead, when taking the test, you should be writing your answers down on a separate piece of paper or bubbling in your answers on an official answer sheet (SAT, ACT). If your simulating testing conditions, then you should already be bubbling in your answers on an official grid. Next, when grading a practice test or section, only look at your answers and the correct answers, then mark each question you got wrong. Copy the number (and section) of the ones you got wrong to a separate sheet of paper, then put all the answer sheets away. Now, use the separate sheet of paper to refer back to the questions you got wrong and redo them. The reason we call this “Blind Grading” is because we don’t want you to see the correct answer while re-solving questions. After you re-try all of the ones you got wrong, you’re then free to study the solutions manual and questions as long as you’d like.
Tip 6: No Improvement? Reach Out!
We all know that test prep matters, but it doesn’t matter if you’re not seeing improvements in your score. But don’t worry! Even the best students can plateau when studying for the SAT or ACT. A good way to kick start your scores is to re-evaluate your study schedule and strategies. Since people aren’t always the best at analyzing themselves, we recommend you reach out to a friend or a tutor to help you figure out how you can improve your study routine and jump-start your scores. A study-buddy or tutor will help keep you accountable, ensuring you don’t veer off track from your set schedule.
In this article, we’ve given you 5 of our best tips and tricks for success on the SAT and ACT exams. Here's a quick list for review:
#1: Do Full-Length Practice Tests
#2: Simulate Real Testing Conditions
#3: Time Yourself Using A Wrist Watch
#4: Stick To A Study Schedule
#5: Do Blind Grading
#6: No Improvement? Reach Out!