6 ways test prep can improve your SAT or ACT scores By Jennifer Jussel Another year, another onslaught of standardized testing. It doesn’t come as any great surprise; after all, students have been taking the SAT for 90 years, and the ACT 56 years! However, every time testing season comes around, it manages to bring with it considerable stress and anxiety. Consider standardized testing as an instrument — the more you practice, the less nervous you’ll be for the performance, AND the better you’ll perform. The fact is, you absolutely should prepare for the SAT and ACT. Here are six reasons why test prep is important. 1. You can raise your SAT and ACT scores! What I’m saying is, the SAT and ACT are not IQ tests. While the classmate who’s been acing every math test since the dawn of time will probably perform better than you on a first run of the SAT math section, it doesn’t mean you can’t drastically improve your personal score. While some questions may be a breeze, other, less familiar subjects can be more difficult. It’s impossible to know everything the test is going to throw at you — the key is knowing how to play by the test’s rules. Once you’ve figured out how the test generally works, nothing can surprise you, and no problem is impossible. 2. Familiarity is key This is not your typical test. You can’t just learn everything on it and spit out all the information you can. It’s much more efficient to learn the rules of the test, and work out the solutions from there. But, like learning anything new, practice makes perfect. It takes a lot of practice to get used to how the ACT and SAT operate, which is why ACT and SAT prep are super important. Cramming, as the College Board and other researchers have stressed many times, is simply not efficient. You can’t just take one practice test and study all night before the exam. You need to take several practice tests and space out your study sessions in order to truly understand and familiarize yourself with the SAT and ACT tests. 3. Improve your SAT and ACT scores without paying full test price The SAT and ACT are not cheap. At about $50 per test and four hours of sitting in a classroom, why torture yourself and your bank account? There are an overwhelming amount of SAT and ACT prep resources available where you can take as many practice tests as you want — in the comfort of your own home — and get them scored by tutors or test prep books. These practice test scores are reliable predictors of your actual score on the SAT and ACT. Like I said before, improving your score is far from impossible! 4. Timing is everything You may know all the information in the world, but if you can’t process it quickly enough, it won’t help you on the tests. A large source of stress surrounding the SAT and ACT is the time limit. While it’s definitely better to answer as many questions correctly as you can than to just finish the test with random answers, it’s easier said than done. Practicing for the test with a timer nearby can help you get used to the time limitations, increasing your chances of finishing with time left over to check your answers. If that sounds impossible now, that’s okay! It just means it’s time to get studying. Becoming accustomed to the time limit will help you to focus on the questions at hand instead of the ticking clock. 5. Your test scores can play a big role in your college entrance odds One of the first questions on college applications asks for your test scores. Colleges differ on how important SAT and ACT scores are to them, but whether it factors prominently into the college’s decision for admittance or not, it is a factor. If it boils down to you and another prospective student, the one with the higher test scores is more likely to be admitted. 6. Get scholarships with good scores Not only can your SAT and ACT scores determine whether or not you get automatic acceptance into certain schools, but they can also help you get full-ride scholarships. If your scores are high enough, you can become a candidate for a full-ride to college — now wouldn’t that make your parents happy! High scores in general qualify you for various scholarships and other opportunities, even after you’ve been admitted into a college. About the author Jennifer grew up in suburban Austin, Texas where she managed to become a balanced mixture of weird, hipster, and nerdy. She now attends Trinity University where she studies music composition, psychology, and creative writing. During her free time, she volunteers with Alpha Phi Omega and Hope Hall.