12 SAT and ACT survival tips every high schooler should try

12 SAT and ACT survival tips every high schooler should try


Do you have anxiety about taking the SAT or ACT? We get it, and we’re here to help.

Figuring out how to study for and do well on standardized tests for college can be a really stressful thing for college-bound students, but the Admissions team at Marymount University put together a list of 12 easy and low-commitment ways to prepare yourself to do great on the SAT or ACT!

1. Know the test format

The SAT is composed of the three main subjects essential to a well-rounded education — reading, writing and arithmetic. The format of the SAT is designed to assess your ability rather than your knowledge. For example, unlike the ACT, the SAT focuses more intentionally on data analysis and your ability to solve problems without a calculator. The ACT correlates well with what is taught throughout the high school curriculum. Similar to the SAT, the test is composed of the three core topics of education — reading, writing and arithmetic, with the added bonus of science. Like the SAT, the test is multiple choice with an optional writing component. And again, you don’t lose points for wrong answers.

2. Take the PSAT or a practice test

By taking a practice test either after your sophomore year or in the early months of your junior year, you’ll learn where you need to improve. Your initial score will reveal your strengths and weaknesses, so that you can begin targeting specific subjects or problems in your studies!

3. Take a SAT and ACT crash course

ACT/SAT prep courses have been available for years, and many of them have produced significantly positive results in improved test scores. These courses tend to meet after school hours, usually on the weekends. So, be proactive and research prep courses in your community to find out how you can sign up!

4. Learn SAT and ACT test strategies

Time management, guessing skills, process of elimination and knowing when to skip a question are really important strategies for increasing your score. If you’ve already memorized the right math formulas and are familiar with grammar, start focusing on the questions that take you the most time.

5. Create a study schedule

If you enroll in an SAT/ACT prep class, you will likely be provided with a suggested study schedule. For those who are studying on their own, carve out a set number of hours per week — at least three months prior to the test — and stick to your schedule! It’s important to maintain consistency when preparing for an exam like the SAT/ACT.

6. Study for the SAT and ACT on the go

One benefit to living in the 21st century is that almost everything we need is at our fingertips! Our phones and tablets offer both free and paid-for ACT/SAT prep apps that you can download. Take advantage of our digital age!

7. Hit the books

Aside from online resources, there are a variety of books that contain full practice tests based on previous years’ exams to give you a better idea of what to expect. The ACT test has an official prep book that is regularly updated. The College Board website has an online store that offers a large selection of SAT prep books, so start reading!

8. Study SAT and ACT vocabulary

Many sources will suggest you learn thousands of new words for the SAT/ACT. Instead, we suggest making a SAT word list and shuffling through (and using) 10 new words a day. You’ll be able to work through reading comprehension on the test with greater ease by understanding these words in different contexts.

9. Consult your instructor or counselor

High school instructors are available for coursework assistance and even career advice, and high school counselors are available to discuss anything from course scheduling to deciding on a college, and ACT/SAT prep is no exception for both.

10. Hire a private tutor

Sometimes, if you’re not as comfortable participating in a class setting for ACT/SAT test prep, it helps to have one-on-one time with a tutor. This personalized approach can provide more accurate feedback for your work, and your tutor can tailor lessons based on your stronger and weaker subjects.

11. Research your college’s middle range

Even if you don’t know exactly where you want to go, start looking into the median standardized test scores of the schools you’re hoping to apply to. After your first practice test, you’ll know how much higher your score needs to be. College Prep estimates that for a 0-30 point increase, you’ll have to study for 10 hours, whereas a 200-330 point increase requires 150 hours of study.

12. Set a goal for yourself

Set specific goals for yourself! Determine your weakest and strongest areas and devote more or less time depending on your strengths. When you evaluate these areas, you can set a reasonable target score and aim to improve in the necessary areas to help you reach that score.

Find out if Marymount University is the home for you!

You can never be too prepared when studying for standardized tests for college. So, figure out which method works the best for you and your study habits, so you can be ready to give your best effort!

If you have questions regarding how Marymount University can prepare you for a successful and fulfilling career post-graduation, we hope you’ll request more information. We’d love to hear from you and help you figure out the challenges that come with applying to college and financing a college education.