You’ve already worked hard to lock down the skills and information you need to do well in your daily studies. So with a study plan and a few tips, you’ll have that knowledge polished up and ready for test day. Let’s get started.
Take the practice tests — Whenever you begin studying (sooner is better), take a practice test, and if you have PSAT scores, sign in on CollegeBoard to get those results, too. Together you’ll have a baseline on where you are, so you can better set goals for where you want to go. You can find practice tests in lots of places: through the official test site, your library, or in new or lightly used materials online.
It’s recommended that you take four to five practice tests before the big day. This achieves two things: 1) It will help chart your progress and strengthen your skill set. 2) It will help you master the test’s structure. By knowing what’s next and getting into a good timing groove, you’ll be a pro by test day.
Tip — Remember, these exams are long. When drilling with practice tests, you’ll need to budget four-hour chunks of time where you’ll have no distractions.
Make flashcards — While some math equations are provided on the exams, many are not. If you have theorems, proofs, or other mathematical formulas that just won’t stick in your head, make flash cards. Review them in between other activities and master them — this way, you’ll feel maximum confidence on test day.
As a student you know that you can use flash cards for everything from vocab to science, so if you’ve already made them for your existing classes, run through those too. You’ve already learned that material, this helps you reinforce it.
Tip — The best flash cards are homemade, not store bought. The act of writing helps reinforce the information.
Study each day — With your classes, extra-curriculars, scholarship hunting, and other activities, you’re probably wondering where to find this time. But in the months/weeks leading up to the big exam, you’ll want to work in at least an hour of prep each day.
By doing this, you’ll be better prepared for the test and its different sections, and you’ll be unshakable on test day.
Tip — Use an app like CollegeBoard’s free question of the day, so the SAT or ACT stays front-of-mind and you stay sharp.
Master the essay — Write four to five practice essays before the test, because this is an area wherein you are in complete control — after all, there’s no wrong answer in an essay.
Start with a thorough read, underlining any applicable text you might use in your response. Next, figure out your thesis, and don’t assume it’s understood by your supporting arguments. Spell it out and give it top billing. Next, flow out a rough outline — this will help you prioritize and plug in ideas that back up your thesis. End with a strong closer, then go back through and review it all again.
Twenty-five minutes will go fast, but if you can 1) make an argument, 2) back it up, and 3) tell it in a cohesive, compelling way, you will nail this. So do those practice essays and have a parent or teacher review them.
Tip — You can use whatever knowledge you have to support your thesis, and it doesn’t have to be academic. It’s your ability to tell the story that matters.
Take the right test for you — Some students have an advantage with one test over the other. If you’re a strong writer with a great vocab, you might prefer the SAT. If you’re logic-driven and naturally analytical, you might prefer the ACT. Take our quiz to see which test could better play to your strengths, but make sure that you check which tests your college will accept.
Tip — Starting in March, there will be changes to the SAT that may affect which test is right for you, and will make the ACT and SAT more similar than in the past. Check them out here.