Take Tests Like the Best

SAT/ACT tips from the pros

By Jeanie Yocum and Joan Partridge

Taking the SAT or ACT can be daunting. But practice makes perfect. SATPrep, which provides test-taking courses for high-schoolers on the Eastside, gave us top tips to get high scores.

Are you college-bound?
A good score on the SAT or ACT can help you be recognized when applying to colleges and also can help you get scholarships and financial aid.

Know your target score
Most college websites show a score range that you will need to fit into for admission to each school. When you take a practice test or the real SAT/ACT, you need to meet this target. This might save you from taking the SAT/ACT twice.

Take a practice test See if your score is close to the target. If so, you are ready to take the SAT/ACT. If not, identify your weak areas and practice those skills. Practice is key to success on the SAT or ACT.

Take a prep course The course teaches you about the test and the style of the questions. It is like playing a new sport: You need the rules and guidelines of the sport to perform well. Your performance will reflect your knowledge and not your lack of familiarity with the test.

Get familiar with the layout of the test Review each test’s format. For example, learn how the reading sections are presented and how the math is tested. Also, learn the directions for each test section so you don’t waste time reading the directions or figuring out how to answer the questions for each section.

Develop your testing endurance Know how many hours each test takes. Also, know how many sections there are to each test so you aren’t stressed with the seemingly “never-ending” aspect of these tests. This helps you stay focused and in control of your anxiety level.

Learn how each test is scored These two tests have different scoring systems. Learn about the system for the test you plan to take. This can help you gain many points because you can figure out when to guess an answer. You might learn that a blank answer can benefit you! Knowing the scoring system will help you relax even when faced with hard questions.

Know when to take the test How busy are you? Don’t plan to take the test during your busiest time. Act now as a 10th- or 11th-grader to plan your schedule for the next couple years to prioritize the SAT/ACT. Either test is given only during the school year, not in the summer.

Realize that you know (most) of the material For many students, the skills tested have been covered in standard high school curriculums. Sometimes, the basics were covered a couple years ago, especially in math. You need to review your foundational skills. Also, realize that the majority of the tests are multiple-choice answers. The correct answer is right there in front of you. Reviewing the tested elements before the test can help you quickly identify the answer.

Take the test again If you didn’t reach your target score or for whatever reason your score doesn’t reflect your ability, you can take the test again. Identify the problem areas; study your notes from your prep course; and practice, practice, practice.

On test day Eat breakfast. Take your test admission ticket and ID. Wear a watch. Take a few No. 2 pencils. Take extra batteries for the calculator. Dress in layers for comfort. Take a snack and water. Arrive early to the test center. Pat yourself on the back for all the effort that you have given.

This testing experience is a contest between you, college admissions offices, scholarship opportunities and thousands of other high school students. Train for it as you would a big performance. Don’t go into the test to see “how you can do,” but use the time to show how ready you are from the preparation that you have put into it.

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