What are the best ways to prepare for the SAT and ACT?

ACT/SAT Prep

Our counselors answered:

What are the best ways to prepare for the SAT and ACT?

Megan Dorsey
SAT Prep & College Advisor College Prep LLC

Learn and Retain Academic Content, Then Become Familiar with Test Format

It’s essential to know the academic content beforehand! In the two decades I’ve taught SAT/ACT Prep, I’ve noticed a majority of students are lacking knowledge of the academic areas tested: algebra, geometry, basic math, reading comprehension, college-bound vocabulary, standard grammar and usage, and critical thinking skills. The more you can learn and retain in school, the easier it will be to take the SAT and ACT. If you’re solid on academic content, test prep courses will teach you effective strategies and techniques for test taking. Some students can study on their own using library books and practice tests, while others need more personalized attention and accountability. No matter what method you chose, set clear, achievable goals and stick to a study calendar.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

Test Prep A Must, But Do What Works for You

There is no one best to prepare for the SATor ACT, but given the reality of the ever competitive application process, it almost imperative that a prospective applicant do something. As to which, it really depends upon a student’s learning style. Some need the formal classroom like approach, while for others a computer program might be the best way to go. Meanwhile, one-on- one tutoring might be best for someone else. The approaches, but if one wants to compete effectively, it is definitely in their best interests to undertake some kind of advance preparation.

Trevor Creeden
Director of College and Career Counseling Delaware County Christian School

What are the best ways to prepare for the SAT and ACT?

Start early and read! A lot of students think that the SAT or ACT is a test that they can just study for a week before the test like one of their other classroom tests and it is not. It is a test that takes strategy, clear thinking, critical thinking and test taking skills that need to be learned over time. There are so many ways to prepare out there today. Companies like Princeton Review, Kaplan, Powerscore, Huntington are making big money on prep courses these days. I feel like you can prepare just as well as any of these courses if you are disciplined enough to put in the time. We have a program through Naviance called Method Test Prep that is really well done in it's structure and preparation. You can even order this program separately. It has audio and video explanations after every question you answer. They recommend that you spend a half hour a day up to 15 weeks before the test you are taking to properly prepare. Now, you may miss a day here and there but that is a good recommendation. They say that you should do half a practice test a week 8 weeks prior to a test and then a full-length practice test a month before you take the test. There is the question of the day that you can get e-mailed to you as well. I don't think you need to spend thousands of dollars on test prep to get a great score. I think you need to discipline yourself to spend the daily time preparing and then maybe take a $500 course a month before the test to learn all the strategies you may need to know.

Nina Sculler
Director College Prep

Preparing for the SAT and ACT

Practice! Practice! Practice! Studies show that students who are familiar with the types of questions and the layout of the test will perform better. Both of the websites associated with these tests offer practice tests and questions for free. USE THESE RESOURCES. SAT has more vocabulary questions (the sentence completions) a good vocabulary is helpful. There are many resources to build a good vocabulary. Nothing beats using the words in sentences. When I practice for the SAT with my students, I make them write words they don't know on index cards and write their definition on the backside. I quiz them by having them use the words in a sentence that makes sense. Dictionary.com has a word of the day program that can be sent to your mailbox or smart phone. Practice using those words in sentences with friends who are also studying for the the SAT. Students should read more! Reading comprehensively is a skill, so it should be practiced like basketball or the piano. Know your math, get a book that explains math concepts if math is an area of weakness. Practice! Practice! Practice!

Dr. Bruce Neimeyer
CEO/Partner Global College Search Associates, LLC

What are the best ways to prepare for the SAT and ACT?

There are a number of ways that students can prepare for these exams. Beyond paying attention in class and doing well in high school, here are some more targeted ways.... 1. A student can engage with a company such as Kaplan or the Princeton Review to take you by the hand in classroom settings to gear you up for and make you comfortable with taking the exam. But, this can be one of the more costly options. 2. Engage with an individual tutor who can tailor what they do for you to get ready. You may be weak in a particular area and need more assistance with this. This again is costly but might be a wise investment depending on what you are trying to accomplish. 3. If you are self motivated, you can pick up a number of guides that also have exercises and study materials for the test content. They even have sample exams you can take at the end to test how well you might expect to do on the real exam. This is certainly less costly but you will need to be self motivated to get it done. No one is going to come in and help you open the book and read it. It is all you in this instance so be ready for that should you choose this path. 4. A great way to build your vocabulary for the exams is to use some vocabulary building books. There are even apps for that now on smart phones. It is something you can do while riding the bus or waiting for your parents to pick you up from school and you will begin to sound a lot more intelligent as well which is an nice extra bonus! There are lots more but this is just a taste......

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College Adventures

What are the best ways to prepare for the SAT and ACT?

PRACTICE TESTS.

Benjamin Caldarelli
Partner Princeton College Consulting, LLC

What are the best ways to prepare for the SAT and ACT?

Private tutoring with an experienced expert.

Carita Del Valle
Founder Academic Decisions

What are the best ways to prepare for the SAT and ACT?

The best way is to first take an actual test - either through the SAT/ACT, or a practice test. After it has been scored then you will know those areas that you will need improvement on and which type of help you will be looking for based on your personal learning style and that is within your budget.

Alexis Avila
Founder Prepped & Polished, LLC

What are the best ways to prepare for the SAT and ACT?

If you are questioning whether to take the ACT or the SAT, take a practice test for both to best decide which direction to pursue. For the most realistic practice tests, I recommend purchasing both the Official Study Guide by College Board and the Real ACT Prep Guide by Petersons. After taking each practice test, use this ACT, SAT concordance table to analyze the results. The best test for top-level students can be either the ACT, the SAT or both. If you are strong in academics, that does not necessarily mean the ACT is the best test for you. While the ACT is a more academic-oriented test, strong academic students tend to do well on both tests. If you have trouble focusing during tests, then consider taking the ACT. The ACT is 20 minutes shorter than the SAT – or 50 minutes shorter if you decide to take the ACT without writing. On the flip side, attention-deficit test takers might find it easier to move fluidly through the SAT test since the individual sections are shorter in length than the ACT sections. So ask yourself this question: Do you want a longer SAT test with ten short sections, or a shorter ACT test with four or five longer sections? If you are leaning towards taking the ACT, try to sign up for the ACT with writing versus the ACT without writing. Most schools – especially top-tier colleges – require or prefer the ACT with writing, so adding the essay component to the ACT is usually worth the trouble. If you have test anxiety, consider taking the ACT. There is no guessing penalty on the ACT and there are less answer choices to choose from on all sections except the math section. Less answer choices plus no guessing penalty equals less to worry about for anxious test takers. If you are horrible at science and more importantly have trouble extrapolating information from tables and graphs, then consider taking the SAT. There is no science section on the SAT test. Just keep in mind that the ACT science section doesn’t cover in depth science content, but is more a test of reading charts and tables. If you have the budget to afford a private tutor, then consider taking the SAT. There are tons of tricks and strategies on the SAT that a well-seasoned SAT tutor can teach you to master. A tutor can certainly help you improve your ACT score, but preparing for the more straightforward ACT test – as long as you are a self-motivated student – is something that can be done on your own.

Karen Ekman-Baur
Director of College Counseling Leysin American School

What are the best ways to prepare for the SAT and ACT?

It's almost impossible to say that there are "best ways" to prepare for the SAT and the ACT because people learn in so many different ways. Here are a few tips, though: 1. Pay attention, study, and learn as much as you can in your school classes. Arrange for extra tutoring if you have difficulty with certain concepts. 2. Read. read. read! Choose challenging sources that interest you - novels, non-fiction, everything . . . You'll increase your vocabulary, while learning a lot of interesting new things. 3. Test practice books can be purchased and used for independent review. 4. Discover how the standardized tests are structured. Knowing ahead of time how the questions will be presented and what the directions will be for the various sections can save you valuable time during the actual testing. 5. Notice the kinds of questions asked in the various sections of the test. Determine where your weaknesses are, and spend time working towards improvement in those areas. 6. Do some practice tests under timed test conditions. You'll be able to determine where you may need to speed up. 7. Develop strategies for pacing yourself. Don't let yourself spend too much time on a question that's giving you trouble. It will be better to move on, keeping up a good pace, and come back to the troublesome question(s) if there is time remaining when you get to the end of that section. 8. Develop strategies for making educated guesses if you're not 100% sure of some answers. (Guessing is not advisable if you don't have the foggiest idea of an answer, but if you can eliminate several choices, so that you're making a sensible guess from the remaining choices, it can work to your advantage.) 9. Use online sources for review. SAT and ACT both offer preparation options on their websites. For many students, It can be extremely beneficial to take a test preparation class. As always, this will depend on the instructor, but you will probably be given tips in the areas indicated above, as well as actual instruction in English usage, critical reading and writing strategies, and mathematics. Many students find that preparing for the tests in a structured, controlled environment works most effectively for them. There is the additional benefit of having the assistance of a real person who can answer your questions as they arise.