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8 Steps to Prepare for the ACT or SAT

8 Steps to Prepare for the ACT or SAT


As a high school junior, you’re probably starting to think about studying for the SAT or ACT. Check out these eight steps you can take to get yourself pumped and prepared for your big exam!

Give Yourself Six Weeks

When it comes to standardized tests like the SAT and ACT, many find that six weeks is a good amount of time to really buckle down and start preparing. It’s enough time to really get the hang of what you’re doing, but not such a long time that you begin forgetting things. This doesn’t mean you can’t familiarize yourself with words or problems in the meantime.

Familiarize Yourself with the Test

You don’t want to study all vocabulary and algebra for the SAT, only to find out later there’s geometry as well. Similarly, you don’t want to spend too much time studying trigonometry for the ACT and completely forget there’s a reading portion. Know exactly what’s on the test, how long it takes, and what format it’s in.

Consider a Class

Taking an SAT or ACT prep course can be one of the best things you can do for your score. Even if it’s just a three hour review class offered on a Saturday, you might want to think about grabbing some of your buddies and attending!

Find Your Best Study Method

There are dozens of materials you can use to prep for these kinds of tests on your own, and it all depends on what works best for you. Review books can be bought at book stores, flash cards can be made, and online sites can offer practice problems, explanations, and advice for the big day. Try learning from multiple sources.

Baby Steps

While you may find it helpful to take a practice test at the very beginning, just to give yourself an idea of where you are without any studying at all, you probably don’t want to start with a bunch of these the first week. Instead, spend an hour each night reviewing the material and completing problems related to that material.

Review As You Go

As you begin your second and third weeks studying for the SAT or ACT, you may want to begin adding things back in that you brushed up on your first week. Keep familiarizing yourself with what you have studied, weeks after you studied it, so you can retain everything that you’re learning!

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Unfortunately, just reading a list of vocabulary words and their definitions, or material on how to do an algebra problem will not be very helpful when it comes to test day. You will have to actually do practice problems. Get as much practice as you can and take practice tests from start to finish.

Know What You Need Test Day

Before going to take your exam, make sure you know when the exam starts, what to bring, and what rules to follow, as forgetting something simple like your school ID could prevent you from taking the test.

Quick and Easy ACT Prep

WOW! Did the ACT test date sneak up on you? As in, today is Monday and the test is Saturday and you’re freaking out? Take a deep breath. Follow the pointers below. You’ll be great.

The Week Before

  • Get plenty of sleep each night from now until the exam. A full 8 hours the night before the test is good, but building up to that is even better. Your body and brain need to rest so they can be ready to focus the day of.
  • Read newspaper articles in their entirety. Do this every day. It’s easy to skim articles when you see them online, but getting in the habit of reading an entire article on paper in front of you will prepare you for the test. Really ambitious? Write a few summarizing sentences describing the article and your response to it.
  • Check the ACT Test Prep website for their Question of the Day!
  • Get together with friends who are taking or have taken the test to discuss it. They can offer you pointers and you can quiz each other on vocabulary.

The Day Before

  • Get everything you need ready to go in one pile the night before. Seriously do this! It will make your life so much easier to wake up early, grab your backpack and go. This includes your calculator, photo ID, admission ticket, and pencils.
  • Double and triple check your test center address, the route you’ll take to get there, and your reporting time.
  • Go to bed at a reasonable hour!

The Day Of

  • Eat some breakfast! Even if you are not normally a breakfast person, eat or drink something so you aren’t operating on a completely empty stomach.
  • Pack a snack to have during your break to keep your fuel levels up!
  • Bring water, but don’t chug it before you enter the test. You’re going to be in there for a while and you don’t want your brain focusing more on the bathroom than the test questions.
  • Bring a sweater – some test centers might be cold! Again, you don’t want to be uncomfortable or focus too hard on anything other than the test.

The Day After

  • Let it all go! You’ve done all you can and now the only thing you need to do is wait for the results.
  • If you get the results and you’re less than pleased, register to take the test again and spend more time on practice questions this time around.
  • If you get the results and you are satisfied, CONGRATS! You did it.

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Friday College Town Hall

wamcIllustrationIconIn Friday College Town Hall, we post a question about college, and you leave an answer in the comment field.

Today’s question:

A new study shows that 28% of students didn’t score high enough to meet any of the ACT standards for expected college success.

How well can a standardized test predict college success? Do schools need to improve or do the tests need to change?

Leave your answer in the comments below or tweet at  @Cappex to chime in (we’ll post your answer below)!

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