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The Truth About Prepping for the SAT or ACT

By Ned Johnson & Aaron Golumbfskie

Here are nine truths to keep in mind when prepping for the SAT or ACT.

  1. The most important factor in college admissions is your transcript. Unfortunately, the next most important factor is your standardized test scores, but never let test prep get in the way of acing school!
  2. Success on the test is as much about staying cool and making good decisions as it is about math, reading, writing, and (for the ACT) science. So do your best to have a calm week and day of the test.
  3. Practice is good, but good practice is better. Getting better at almost anything is a matter of understanding what you’re doing wrong and changing what you need to in order to improve.
  4. And practice is best when it’s focused practice without distractions!
  5. Your test preparation should be in the weeks leading up to the test. The days leading up to the test are for rest and self-care. Get as much sleep as you can. Going in tired is the best way for you to pitch all that hard work you’ve done, since you won’t be able to show all that you do know.
  6. Going in hungry is almost as bad as going in tired.
  7. Don’t radically change your diet on test day. If you usually have a coffee in the morning, go ahead; if you don’t, then don’t!
  8. Make good use of your tools: your pencil and your calculator. Mark up the passages to help you understand them, do all your algebra on the page, and do all your arithmetic using your calculator. Don’t overtax your working memory trying to do too much in your head — it won’t work well when you’re under the stress of the actual test.
  9. The SAT or ACT is, like almost any other test, a test of acquired skills. If you care to work hard, you can meaningfully improve your score. After all, can you think of anything that you can practice and not get better at doing??
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