Put to the Test: Preparing for the SAT/ACT

Student taking testStressed about standardized tests?

Here’s some good news: There’s no need to cram. Taking rigorous classes in high school is by far the best preparation strategy.

That said, there are a few additional things you can do to make sure you do you perform well on test day.

Pick Up a Book:  No, you don't have to plow through Moby Dick (though that wouldn't hurt)! But you should spend at least 15 minutes reading for fun each day. Choose books, magazines, and newspapers that you enjoy—everything from Harry Potter to The New York Times can strengthen your reading comprehension and vocabulary.

Hone Your Writing Skills: Both the ACT and SAT include an optional essay section. Whether you're writing a research paper for school or working on your own short stories, your writing skills will improve with practice.

Strategize: Test-taking skills can be learned through practice. Both the ACT and SAT provide sample questions, and practice tests are available online. Try them out and look carefully at the questions you get wrong. If you find that certain types of questions or certain topics stump you, get some help from a teacher in those areas. For example, a math teacher can recommend a good book to review the basics of geometry or algebra.

Come Prepared: Set out everything you'll need (including your No. 2 pencils) the night before the test and get plenty of rest. Arrive at the testing center early and don’t skip breakfast. It’s harder to concentrate when you are hungry.

Relax: Scores are important, but they're not nearly as important as many students think. Although each college uses test scores differently, admission decisions are rarely based solely on test scores. In fact, your academic record—the courses you've taken and the grades you've received—is looked at much more closely than your test scores.