Top 10 Things to Do to Prepare for the ACT®/SAT®

Top 10 Things to Do to Prepare for the ACT®/SAT®

If you are preparing to take the ACT or SAT, you want to be certain you are doing all you can to get ready for these important tests.Taking ACT or SAT practice tests is one important step, but there are other steps you can take to maximize your test prep and ensure you are on the way to success. Here is a closer look at what you can do to prepare.

1. Brush Up on Outside Reading

If you aren’t a reader, or if your reading choices are in a very limited genre, consider brushing up on reading outside your assigned schoolwork to improve your score on the reading and vocabulary portions of the tests. Specifically, spend some time reading sophisticated prose, and practice criticizing the text you are reading. Also, take time to absorb the vocabulary of this literature, learning the words that are unfamiliar to you. On test day, you must be able to read quickly, while still understanding what you have read, and be able to evaluate and analyze it.  Consider taking an ACT or SAT practice test with a reading component so you can see the ways in which you will be asked to evaluate reading passages.

2. Review Basic Rules of Grammar

If it’s been a while since you had a grammar lesson, take some time to review the basic rules. Know when to capitalize words, how to use commas properly, and how to make verbs agree with their subjects. This will help on both the writing and English portions of the test.

3. Learn Concepts You’re Unfamiliar With

Do you struggle with basic math concepts? Take a refresher course. Is grammar your hangup? Then brush up on grammar rules. Do you struggle with science or reasoning? Take some time to learn more about these subjects. Learning the concepts that you are not familiar with before you take the test will help your score. If you are unsure where your weaknesses lie, consider taking a practice test to identify and target them.

4. Use Realistic Test Questions

You can find numerous ACT or SAT practice tests online, but make sure the questions resemble the actual exams and are in line with the most current version of the test. Do some research online to find a reputable company that offers practice tests based on recently released exams from ACT or College Board. When taking the practice test, make sure you replicate the actual conditions of the test by timing yourself, because the test will be timed on the day you take it.

5. Set a Study Schedule

It’s easy to become consumed with your test prep, but you still need to be aware of other responsibilities in your life. Set a study schedule that is realistic. Plan specific times during the day when you will study, use that time wisely, and then move on with other activities after your study period is over. If possible, aim for about 20-30 minutes a day for test prep rather than trying to cram in several hours all at once as the testing date nears.

6. Learn the Test Format

In addition to studying specific subjects as part of your test prep, you should also learn the test format. Both the ACT and the SAT have specific formats, and knowing what to expect on test day will help you perform better. Visit to get details about the official format of the SAT from College Board, or visit for details about the ACT. Look for ACT or SAT practice tests that follow similar formats as you prepare.

7. Learn to Manage Your Time

Not only do you need to practice taking timed tests as part of your ACT or SAT prep, you should also learn how to manage your time. On testing day, you will need to spread out your time carefully so that you do not devote too much attention to any one question.

8. Memorize the Right Things

There are some concepts tested on the ACT and the SAT, such as math formulas, that you need to memorize. For math, the SAT gives you some formulas to pull from, but the ACT does not. To prepare for the ACT, you will need to know how to use or calculate:

  • Pythagorean theorem
  • Quadratic formula
  • Area of triangles
  • Area of a circle, sector, rectangle, parallelogram, and trapezoid
  • Circumference
  • Slope-intercept formula
  • Trigonometry functions (sine, cosine, tangent)

Know these concepts before heading into the test to make the entire experience more manageable and less anxiety-inducing.

9. Find Mobile Practice Options

Instead of using paper and pencil to take your ACT and SAT practice tests, consider taking your test prep mobile. Find online test prep or an app-based solution that will allow you to practice on the go with a phone or tablet.

10. Have Your Stuff Ready for Test Day

The night before your test, pack a small bag to take with you on test day. Bring all the items you are allowed to have at the test, such as your pencils and calculator. Consider packing bottled water and a snack to eat during your break. Refresh your mind on what is and is not allowed in the testing area and prepare accordingly. Eat a healthy, protein-rich breakfast on test day, then head out to take the test you’ve worked so hard to prepare for.

High ACT or SAT scores don’t happen by accident. They require dedicated preparation time with the right tools. Find the right tools and head into the test with confidence, knowing you have done all you can to be prepared.

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