Doesn’t it seem like new college test prep classes have begun sprouting overnight? You can go to week-long classes, private tutoring, and five-hour practice sessions. You can buy College Board prep books and vocabulary flashcards and even online assistance. With all the SAT and ACT help advertised to sophomores, juniors, and seniors in high school, it’s often difficult to know what might actually work for you.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re searching for the right practice admission test regimen for you.
- Know how to take the test. Once you’re actually taking the SAT or ACT, you don’t want to have to spend time reading the directions. More importantly than that, you should to know how it all works so you can plan your test-taking strategy. For example, will you lose points if you answer questions incorrectly or skip questions? You can definitely learn this info on your own online, but a three-hour intro class might also give you some reinforcement. These classes will also often provide you with a handbook to flip through at home.
- Know how time works for you. There are strict time limits on both the SAT and the ACT, and it’s often difficult to know if you’re spending too much time on one particular problem. I suggest taking a few full-length practice tests before you take the actual test while timing yourself using the actual limits.
- Know your weaknesses. Once you’ve taken at least one practice test, focus on the section you had the most trouble with. If you can, try to get tutored in that area. You can look into free programs through your school or town library, or even ask a teacher (or someone else at your school) to tutor you privately. You could also reach out to national or local tutoring businesses. If you think improvement is possible, work for it.
- Know when to stop. After I took the SAT for the first time, I was really happy with my Math score—especially because it’s never been my best subject. Even so, since it was lower than my Critical Reading and Writing scores, I decided I wanted to try for a higher score. I took months of basic math tutoring that didn’t seem to really challenge me, and the result was dismal: my math score actually went down 10 points! Know when you’ve done your best, and be satisfied with that.
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