Juniors, Taking the ACT or SAT? Practice, practice, practice...

The winter testing dates for the ACT and SAT are coming up soon:  the SAT will be administered on January 25th and the ACT on February 8th. For many students, practice can improve scores. But if you're listening to your iPod while you're thumbing through the test or not taking a timed practice test, you probably won't experience that improvement. Here's how to practice so you get results:

                Practice under actual test conditions. Both tests require students to perform in a fixed amount of time. Sit down in your kitchen with a test book and your No. 2 pencils and have a family member time you.

                Make sure you practice with real tests. The test services call these materials "disclosed" tests -- actual ACT and SAT tests from prior dates. Such tests are available free from the College Board and ACT, Inc. online. If you use a guide from the bookstore or local library, make sure it contains "disclosed" tests.

                Timing matters. Preparation is more effective closer to the test date so right now is perfect timing. Don't wait for the days right before you walk into the test center.

For more information on testing, including how colleges view standardized testing, how to create a testing plan, and more, sees Chapter 7, "Testing," in College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step. And find additional free test prep resources here on our website.


Good advice! As an SAT and ACT tutor of many years' experience, I'd like to add a few more points. Yes, do take full practice tests, timed by someone other than your iPhone. In fact, your phone should be off and out of sight and you should be wearing a wristwatch, the only personal timer you'll have on test day. (I recommend TestingTimers for their SAT- and ACT-dedicated silent timer watches.) Make sure you take the full test in one sitting and use the bubble sheets for your answers, like on a real test. Accurate bubbling is also a skill and it takes precious time for which you have to budget. Most importantly, go over your test results soon after you've taken the test, so you can recall your thinking on questions you got wrong in order to improve on the next one.

Great points! Thank you for these comments. Christine VanDeVelde

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