Taking either the ACT or the newly-revised SAT is an important milestone in the lives of most high school students. The realization of its importance for getting into desirable schools begins to sink in, and after a couple brief looks at a test-prep book, many approach the test with real fear.

But there’s nothing to be afraid of – the SAT and ACT are predictable in many ways, and with a little knowledge and practice, most students can achieve decent scores on them.

The most important things to do are

(1) Find a good tutor, one with plenty of experience,

(2) Accept their suggestions since they’ve been through it before, and

(3) Practice, practice, practice!

If you are approaching one of these tests for the first time, here’s some advice:

  • Plan to spend at least two months prepping for it with an excellent tutor;
  • Identify your areas of weakness and practice them the most;
  • Plan to spend about one hour per day among meeting with your tutor, practicing homework, and taking practice exams;
  • Develop a “growth mindset” learn to see every mistake you make not as a failure or a judgment on your ability, but rather as an opportunity to improve and learn;
  • Begin to prepare physically for this four-hour battle: learn good sleep habits, practice appropriate nutrition (e.g. eat a protein-filled breakfast every morning, not just on test days!);
  • Learn to plan ahead; if you put homework time or a slot for taking a practice exam down on your calendar, you’re much more likely to follow through on it. If you don’t, accept that you’re saying that whatever comes up that’s more fun or interesting than the SAT work will take precedence, and that you’ll never find time to do the practice because EVERYTHING else is more fun! Failing to plan is planning to fail!

You can take either the SAT or the ACT (we teach both); virtually every college and university accepts both. Some students may find one or the other more appealing or easier – it’s simply a matter of taste. Many say that the ACT is more “straight-forward” in the way questions are posed, but this exam is also more time-sensitive. The revised SAT doesn’t have a science section (as the ACT does), but it does ask science-y questions in the reading section, and there a number of info graphics that you’ll have to solve. In addition, the new SAT asks a lot of evidence-based questions in the reading section, which may be new to many students. We usually suggest that students take one of each as a practice exam baseline, and figure out from that which would better suit them.

Whichever test you decide on, work with your tutor to find the best strategies for answering questions, and you’ll do well. Many of our students improve up to as many as 10+ points on the ACT and 250+ points on the revised SAT. It can be done!

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St. Michael Prep is an education company providing custom one-on-one tutoring and test prep from highly qualified tutors.

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