11 Steps to a Successful ACT/SAT Test

1. Check your calendar.

If your test date is predetermined, don’t schedule any big events for the week leading up to it. If you’re selecting your test date, try not to book it the day before your cousin’s wedding or at the end of a family vacation.

2. Read!

Get your brain used to the types of articles in the ACT or SAT reading sections. The syntax and vocabulary might be rather different from what you’re used to reading. Check out The New Yorker or The Atlantic for examples. For practice, write a summary and a few key questions after reading each article.

3. Use online resources.

If you can’t afford to purchase a practice book, many online resources offer real ACT or SAT questions and for you to get familiar with their structure: ACT practice tests, SAT practice tests.

4. Set a target score.

Look at the schools you’re interested in. What is the average ACT or SAT score for each school? What should your goal be? Use practice tests to set yourself a reasonable target—not everyone can score in the 95th percentile!

5. Plan your study time.

Divide your time between studying, reading and doing practice questions. Dedicate at least an hour or two each week to ACT or SAT prep in the months leading up to your test.

6. Minimize distractions.

When you’re doing ACT or SAT prep, put your phone on a shelf and turn off the TV. When you get your score, you’ll be thanking yourself!

7. Analyze your results.

When you get a practice question wrong, ask yourself: “Why did I get it wrong?” Sometimes you miss a question because you didn’t have the knowledge; sometimes you miss a question because you took the wrong approach; sometimes you miss a question because you guessed incorrectly. Evaluate your mistakes to learn from them in the future.

8. Study ahead of time, but not the day before.

Cramming the night before or morning of your test will over-stress your mind. Give your brain a break instead!

9. Drink plenty of water.

Your head will thank you for keeping it well-hydrated and ready to go.

10. Prepare a snack you’ll be excited to eat!

When you have a break, you’ll really want a break. Bring your favorite small snacks so each break gears you back up for the next section of the test.

11. Stay calm.

A calm, level head is what you need to process the information on your test. Practice a calm breathing technique if test anxiety is especially difficult for you.

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VERGE: fall 2016

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