How do I Study on My Own for the ACT® or SAT®?

How do I Study on My Own for the ACT® or SAT®?
Our experts share how you can study on your own for the ACT or SAT exam when you do not have access to a tutor. Practice is key!
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How do I Study on My Own for the ACT® or SAT®?
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Are you worried about getting a low score on the ACT® or SAT® because you find certain subjects challenging? Or don’t have money to pay for expensive tutoring? The truth is you don’t need piles of cash or a high IQ to earn a good score on either the ACT or the SAT. All you need to do is follow the proven tips outlined below.

Choose the Best Way to Study

There is no “best” way to study for everyone. However, chances are you’ve already discovered a study method that works well for you personally. For some people, taking practice tests alone on a computer helps them learn the skills needed to ace the ACT or SAT. Others study best in small groups, while still others prefer to study using an app that lets them review important information while out and about.

Set Score and Study Goals

Expecting a perfect score is unrealistic, but you can set a score goal that’s within reach. To do so, consider which colleges and universities you want to apply to and then look up their ACT/SAT score requirements. Bear in mind that you want to get at least a point or two above the minimum scores so that your application stands out from the others.

It’s also important to set study goals. This means defining not only how many hours you want to study each week but also which subjects you want to master within a particular time frame.

Gather Resources

You may not need a tutor to master the ACT or SAT, but you will need the right study resources to learn the material you need to know before you take a college admissions test.

Practice tests are a key resource that should be in every student’s test-prep arsenal. For example, UWorld offers multiple ACT and SAT practice tests that can help you get used to the test formats and identify your weak areas. Detailed follow-up explanations are also provided to help you understand the questions you answered wrong and improve your weak areas.

It’s also wise to invest time in reading practice. One-third of the SAT and one-fourth of the ACT involve reading comprehension. SAT test-takers should work on drawing conclusions from reading passages that don’t state opinions in black and white, understanding the main point or central idea of a passage, and relating different ideas discussed in a passage. ACT test-takers should brush up on grammar rules, topic development, and idea organization. This means that no matter what test you plan to take, you need to dig up some advanced, nonfiction reading passages or check out a few library books similar to what an English teacher would assign.

Another resource you’ll need is a good calculator. If you have a model you’re comfortable using, make sure that you’ll be allowed to use it for the test you’re planning to take. If you don’t have one, look up the calculator rules for the ACT and SAT tests and buy one that you can bring with you on the big day. Practice using the calculator beforehand so you can use it quickly when needed.

Make a Plan

Once you have your resources together, it’s time to make a study plan. Decide what to study and when and where you’ll study it. Allow some flexibility in your plan so you can adapt if one study slot doesn’t work out well for some reason. However, don’t make excuses for not studying what you need to know in advance. If you’ve created a realistic study plan that covers everything you need to know for your test, follow that plan as closely as possible.

Keep Tabs on Your Progress

Studying is good but it’s not enough on its own. You need to keep track of your progress so that you know if you’re improving in your weak areas. One good way to do this is to take regular ACT/SAT practice tests and then log your score. Is your score improving across the board or are there areas where your score is remaining the same or even declining?

Work on Timing

Once you understand the study material, it’s time to work on your timing. This is especially important if you choose to take the ACT, as the ACT has more questions than the SAT but offers less time to complete them.

Choose an ACT or SAT practice test section, set a timer for the same amount of time you’ll have when you take the test, and then get started. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t beat the timer on your first try. With continued practice, you’ll get better at answering questions both quickly and accurately.

Studying on your own for the ACT or SAT isn’t complicated. With time, hard work, and the right resources, you can learn what you need to know so that you’re ready when the big day comes.

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