Navigating Test Prep


Careful preparation and studying will help you achieve a significantly higher score on both the SAT and the ACT, thereby increasing your chances of getting into your college of choice. But preparing for the SAT or ACT exam can be stressful. With the many options available for practice tests, preparation courses and tutoring, it may be difficult to decide which preparation pathway would be best for you. Here are some tips to help you navigate your preparation pathway:

Plan a schedule for studying.

If you organize when you’ll be studying for your upcoming exam, your time will be more productive. This approach is particularly important if you are involved in multiple activities inside and outside school. NextStepU recommends that you create a schedule for the next four to eight weeks and study a minimum of five days a week. Schedule study sessions during times that you will be alert (e.g. during the day rather than late at night), and schedule blocks of at least an hour. Plan what area of the test you will study during your sessions (focus on one area at a time), and choose an environment that will not be distracting. Eliminating background noises and setting a timer may also help you focus.


Take a prep course.

If you feel that you will not be focused enough on your own, many organizations offer prep courses both in person or online. Kaplan and Sylvan Learning are two well-known organizations that offer preparation classes with certified teachers, but it may be worth first asking your teachers and guidance counselors if your school offers classes for free.


Hire a private tutor.

If this is something you can afford, it is a great option for any kind of learner. Be careful with your selection of a tutor; aim for one who is well qualified. Kaplan also offers tutoring services, given by certified instructors. You may also want to opt for a tutor recommended by your school or through a reputable agency.


Get a prep book and practice.

This is a must for anyone preparing for an exam. The Princeton Review offers high quality preparation manuals, with test-taking tips and practice exams. Make sure that you take multiple mock exams to get a good feel for the test. Remember, practice makes perfect, so take a mock exam about once a week. College Board and the ACT also offer practice tests.


There is power in numbers.

Chances are, many of your friends are also preparing for the big test. Start a test-prep study group that meets once or twice a week. You can organize a schedule, review flashcards together and help keep each other focused. But remember: Avoid studying with friends you know will goof off!



Once you have decided on an action plan, have a little fun. Play Zero Hour Threat, an SAT and ACT prep video game. SparkNotes has ACT and SAT study guides, with free assessments of your skills. The site also has flashcards to help build your vocabulary in preparation for the exam. Get friends and family to help you study. You may be the one taking the test, but remember that everyone is rooting for you!


Melissa Woodson is the community manager for @WashULaw, a premier Masters of Law program offered through Washington University in St. Louis as well as a contributor to the LLM guide. In her spare time, she enjoys running, cooking, and making half-baked attempts at training her dog.


Your EduFavs

Please login to view and manage your EduFavs.