Prepping for SAT and ACT tests is vital, as doing so is one of the few ways to improve a college application quickly. The SAT and the ACT exam help determine what sort of schools a teenager will get into, so it is vital to do well. One of the few proven ways to do so is with test preparation by studying.
When, though, to start? To a certain extent, you probably already have.
There are three main SAT subjects – Critical Reading, Writing and Mathematics. These are the three core subjects of any education around the world, and all three have been taught to you or your child since the time they began schooling, whether public, private or at home. In truth, much of the knowledge that is necessary to perform well on the SAT has already been taught by the time they take it.
Most of the test questions, in any subject, are going to examine test takers on general knowledge; highly specialized knowledge is not necessarily required. All of the math, reading and writing material that will be covered by the test is usually taught to students in standard course work already.
Reading and writing questions will examine reading and writing skills and the mathematics portion will cover several areas of mathematical knowledge. The SAT includes a section that does not allow use of a calculator and a section that does, so the test taker must be prepared for this. Pre-algebra, algebra, geometry and trigonometry are all included in SAT math portions.
Just as with the SAT, the ACT examines a broad base of knowledge, consisting mostly of reading, writing and mathematics. However, the ACT – which is now favored slightly more than the SAT nationwide – may delve slightly more into specialized subjects. The ACT that you or your child sits for may contain more science questions or questions employing scientific reasoning than the SAT.
Reading and writing questions are likely to include not only assessments of reading and writing skills, but also knowledge of English, including grammar, punctuation, spelling, vocabulary, morphology and syntax.
The math portion of the ACT includes remedial and intermediate algebra, remedial and intermediate geometry and rudimentary trigonometry. Calculators are allowed, but not those with algebraic functions.
However, the ACT will examine scientific reasoning as well, as the science portion is dominated by interpreting data and presenting conclusions. The SAT, by contrast, does include statistics in the mathematics portion, so it isn’t entirely limited to the ACT.
Like the SAT, the ACT mostly relies on subjects that almost all students are taught by the time they take the test, so much of the studying is done by simply becoming proficient in these subjects in the course of normal schoolwork.
Practice exams should be taken immediately before ACT or SAT preparation begins. That way, the test taker knows what score they may expect to earn without additional studying. This also helps identify weak areas and thus what skills need to be honed in order to secure a higher score.
When should one start preparing for the ACT and/or SAT? A child has already begun preparing by taking normal classes in school, but students that study for longer periods tend to retain more knowledge and perform better than students that “cram” for the exams.
Ideally, a student will devote a 20-30 minutes every day months before the test – three to four months or more is ideal. Oftentimes students sit for the exam in fall of their Junior year. They begin studying sometime around June before junior year. That way students can commit substantial time to practice during summer break when schedules can be relatively light.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to take the SAT or ACT a second time. The main purpose of the second sitting is to confidently succeed on the test. This is the main event. Student should know what they’re doing, and should have logged a significant number of prep hours. They should have a good idea of how they will perform without expecting to be surprised on test day.
The test-taker will rely on these scores to unlock opportunities in post-secondary education and one’s best scholastic foot, so to speak, should be put forward. That means not relying on merely one test score if one doesn’t have to.
Not only does a longer amount of time with a reasonable practice schedule immerse a student more in the material, it can take the stress out of the equation with adequate preparation. After all, nothing in life is learned immediately; skills take time to develop. However, with Testive’s ACT and SAT preparation program, those skills can be honed, developed and brought to bear when the time comes to sit for the exam…and get the best score possible!
Tom Rose is the co-founder and CEO of Testive, an online SAT and ACT prep company. Tom started Testive at MIT, after spending years as a highly paid private SAT and ACT tutor, to provide students with personalized, efficient, and affordable test prep.