10 SAT and ACT tips for your students

Here are 10 great tips from C2 Education that your students can use to get better scores on these tests:

1. Start with a Practice Test: Any test prep plan should start with a practice SAT or practice ACT. Before your students can set a goal, they need to figure out where they are currently scoring – a diagnostic test is the best way to do that. To get the most accurate score, they will need to take their practice test under realistic testing conditions.

2. Create a Study Schedule: Once they have their original test scores, they will need to set some goals. If they already have a list of colleges where you know they want to apply, research the median test scores from prior admitted classes. The College Board’s Big Future website has a search tool that provides this information for hundreds of colleges. Compare their original scores to the average scores for their target schools, and use this information to set score goals.

3. Build on Strengths and Target Weaknesses: One of the most valuable things they can learn from their diagnostic SAT or ACT is where to target their test prep. If there are certain types of questions that they did particularly poorly on, they know they will need to focus on those questions. For example, if their writing score wasn’t as high as they would like and they noticed that they didn’t do very well on organization questions, they know that they will need to spend extra time studying transitions and paragraph cohesion.

4. Read, Read, Read: On both the ACT and the SAT, the reading and writing sections are passage-based, which means there’s a lot of reading to be done in a short amount of time. Both tests also include word problems on the math section – in fact, many students have reported that one of the hardest parts of the SAT math section is that it is very text heavy, so even the math section requires the ability to read efficiently.

There is no shortcut to learn to read quickly and efficiently. The only way to gain that skill is through lots of practice. The more your students read, the better a reader they will become. Whether they prefer to read novels, magazines, or news articles, they should simply pick some reasonably complex text and make sure that they read every single day.

5. Practice Makes Perfect: Especially if they are studying on their own, practice tests are their best friend. Taking practice tests can help them to not only master the content of the tests, but also improve their time management, combat testing anxiety, and boost confidence by allowing them to become familiar with the test format and question types ahead of time.

6. Know the Test: By knowing exactly what they are going to face on test day – the types of questions, how many passages, what the instructions say, and so on – they can enter the testing space with confidence. Testing anxiety is reduced by familiarity, and they won’t waste precious minutes parsing the wording of instructions or wondering what information a particular type of question is asking for.

7. Get a Good Night’s Sleep: It’s tempting to stay up late doing some last minute cramming for the SAT or ACT, but your students best bet is to go to bed early! In fact, researchers at UCLA found that sacrificing sleep for extra study time actually has adverse effects on academic performance. Sleep is important for retention, and the first half of the night contains the largest amounts of so-called “deep sleep,” which is when the brain consolidates new facts.

To get a good night’s sleep, avoid screen time for at least an hour before they plan to hit the hay. The blue light from televisions, smart phones, and computers can make it harder to fall asleep, and lying awake staring at the ceiling won’t help them on test day.

8. Eat a Balanced Breakfast:The SAT or ACT exam is probably going to take place pretty early on a Saturday morning, so it’s easy to rush out the door without eating breakfast first. Like any other organ in the body, the brain needs food to function properly, so breakfast is important! Prep a healthy breakfast the night before and set the alarm a few minutes early so that there is time for brain food. Research shows that a breakfast low in sugar – think whole wheat toast and eggs – improves the ability to maintain attention, and maintaining attention is pretty important when it’s time to take a 3+ hour long test.

9. Gather Supplies: To reduce test day stress, get everything together the night before the test. Be sure to bring an approved calculator, several sharpened pencils with erasers, ID, and registration information. Check the list of banned items for the SAT or ACT so nothing is brought in that isn’t allowed. This includes certain types of calculators, pretty much any electronic device, and food or drink.

10. Overcome Anxiety: A lot of absolutely brilliant students are disappointed by their SAT or ACT scores because they froze up on test day. The ACT and SAT are high stakes tests, so it’s easy to overthink things. Before test day, students should work on some anxiety reducing technigues to beat testing anxiety. For example, try positive visualization – picture looking at really amazing test scores in a few weeks. Or try deep breathing, which has the added benefit of ensuring that the brain has ample oxygen to work with.

If you like these tips check out some of C2 Education’s other blogs linked below:

Understanding Your SAT Score Report: Free Resources

What is a Good SAT Score?

What SAT and ACT Scores Do I Need?

Why the PSAT Matters to You

Top 5 Signs You Need Test Prep Help