Preparation is the key to performing well on the college entrance exams (ACT, SAT). Work hard both inside and outside the classroom. Take challenging courses, study hard, and read and write as much as you can.
Timing: Make sure there is ample time to take the test before college applications are due. Generally, a student's initial test date should be in the winter of junior year.
In addition, here some things that every student can do to help them maximize their test results:
Before the Test:
Know what to expect:
- Be familiar with the test's format.
- Know the types of information covered and the types of questions that are asked, as well as how the questions are worded.
- Go to the testing organization’s website or check out books to get familiar with the various test sections and the instructions for each part. You’ll feel more confident if you know the test format beforehand.
Take preliminary tests: The organizations that offer the ACT and SAT also offer practice tests that can be taken between freshmen and junior years. The PSAT is available as practice for the SAT and the Pre-ACT is the practice test for the ACT. These tests make great practice tests because they have the same formats and question types as the admission tests.
Prep Early: Students can take a test prep course or prep themselves from books and websites. For those of you taking the SAT, the verbal section is highly concentrated on vocabulary. It may be beneficial to study the lists provided to you in groups, as well as by yourself, for weeks in advance.
Some students and families have asked for a list of test prep options. Attached is a sheet with some examples.
Take Multiple Practice exams: (Can practice for little or no cost): You can find advice and practice doing different types of questions on the ACT and SAT websites, as well as find free practice exams. You can find study guides from the test makers in the library or bookstores. Take practice tests under timed conditions. Get a good feel for what’s expected on the exam, how to work through the questions, pacing and which areas you need to work on more. Again, make sure to time the practice tests just like the real exam. When you get the score from your practice test, pay attention to the types of questions that gave you trouble and then focus on those areas as you prepare. Websites such as Khan Academy also have practice test questions and prep plans.
Create a Test Environment: Replicate the conditions under which the test is administered. Take practice tests early on a Saturday morning in an area with noise and distractions, such as a library. Students need to practice concentrating, sitting in one place and getting comfortable thinking and working in noisy or group environments.
Create a Balance: Students should not spend all their time practicing for the entrance exams. Even a perfect SAT score of 2400 does not guarantee admission to top picks. Admissions representatives look for students who will make a positive contribution to their campus community. Students should have a balance of good grades, meaningful participation in extra-curricular or community service activities, strong essays and good test scores.
Retake, But Know When to Stop: Students, who are unhappy with initial test scores, may take the tests again. After taking the test three times, scores generally do not improve.
Choose the Best Test: Consider which test is right for you. By taking practice SAT and ACT tests, students often find they score better on one than the other. Keep in mind students don’t have to take both tests; either test is accepted by the colleges.
The Day Before the Test:
Think Positive: You are more prepared than you think! You have spent the last 12 years preparing for this. Be confident in your abilities.
Gather what you need the night before: You’ll need your admission ticket, a valid form of photo identification, several no. 2 pencils, and a working calculator. (You can also check beforehand to see if your testing location allows you to bring a small snack and something to drink.)
Eat a healthy meal the night before your exam: Healthy food energizes you and helps you perform at your best.
Go to bed early: You need to be rested and alert, not drowsy and lethargic. Shoot for eight or more hours.
Know where your test center is located: Print out and review directions in advance.
The Day of the Test:
Give yourself extra time the morning of the test: You want to be awake and relaxed. Set your alarm a little early to ensure you have enough time and don’t have to scramble to get ready.
Leave/Arrive Early: Be sure to account for any unforeseen event that may make you late. This will help reduce stress if something were to come up. (ie—Traffic)
Make sure you bring your photo id and all other documentation required by the testing agency.
Eat a healthy breakfast: Again, you want to be energized. Eat a high protein meal.
Dress in layers: Wear something comfortable. Also, wearing layers will allow you to be prepared for different temperatures. You don’t want to be distracted by being too cold or too hot while taking the test.
Use a soft lead no. 2 pencils: Don’t use a mechanical pencil or ink pen. And bring pencils with good erasers.
Read instructions carefully: Different sections can have different procedures, so make sure you read the instructions for each one. Don’t skip over them.
Read each question completely and carefully: Sometimes the correct answer to a question hinges on a single word.
Pace yourself: Don’t go too fast; you could overlook important details. And don’t go too slowly; you could be forced to rush at the end.
Answer the easy questions first: It will set a good pace. You can go back and answer the more difficult ones later.
Answer difficult questions through the process of elimination: On questions you don’t know, exclude as many options you know are incorrect as you can so you increase your chances of choosing the correct response.
ACT: Answer every question. ACT college entrance exams are multiple-choice and scored on the number of questions you answer correctly, so guessing doesn’t hurt; it’s better than leaving the question blank.
Use your test booklet for scratch paper: You may need room to write things out before making an answer, and DO NOT scribble on your answer sheet.
Review your work: Look for unanswered questions you may have skipped and go back to questions you struggled with to recheck your work.
Mark your answers neatly: Completely erase any marks you don’t want and make sure all of your answers are filled in completely.
Listen for the five-minute-remaining mark: If you still have a lot of questions remaining, focus on those you feel most sure about.
When told “pencils down”—listen: Be sure to stop marking on the test right away. Continuing after the time has been called is grounds for dismissal, and your test will not be scored.
Take deep breaths: Increasing your oxygen intake, keeps you alert and focused.
Chew: Chew a favorite flavor of gum while practicing and while taking the actual exam. This creates a positive experience for the brain. (Mint also is known to stimulate the brain)
RELAX---You Are Done!
Information collected from myfuture.com; bigfuture.collegeboard.com; and today.com