5 ways to improve your SAT/ACT score the next time you take it

5 ways to improve your SAT/ACT score the next time you take it


Have you taken the SAT or the ACT for the first time, but aren’t so happy with your score? If so, that’s totally fine and you aren’t alone. Many students don’t get the exact score they were aiming for after taking one of the standardized tests for college the first time, but then get substantially better results after taking the test for the second time — after some smart and thorough studying, of course.

Think of it this way — your first SAT/ACT try was a way for you to figure out exactly what you need to work on before you take the test again. Try implementing these five studying tips (and here are a few more!) into your routine in order to improve your score the second time around.

1. The SAT/ACT has a time limit — so should you during your study time.

Working on test content is only half the battle — the real challenge is being able to work through every question under the time limit. Administer several mock tests to yourself that mimic the actual testing times and conditions of a standardized test (especially the sections you need the most work on) so that you’ll learn how to manage your time wisely. Even if you can write an effective persuasive essay, for example, you’ll need to practice writing one in under 25 minutes. This can throw many people off, even good writers! So be prepared to tackle a writing assignment in less time than you would normally have.

2. A regimented study routine will help you stay dedicated and focused to preparing for the SAT/ACT.

The key to retaining all the test-taking skills you’re honing is frequent practice over a dedicated period of time. You should try to devote two to three days a week to test prep. Whether you’re working on math problems or writing sample essays, you should be spending several hours a week sharpening your skills, probably for a few months. If you’ve been using the critical thinking skills these tests are designed to challenge on a weekly basis, they’ll come naturally to you when it comes time for the real test.

3. The SAT/ACT loves vocab — strengthen yours for a higher score!

Learning new vocabulary is one of the easiest ways to improve your score on the writing and reading comprehension sections, and it can even fun! Buy a set of flashcards or download an app that teaches you a few words every day. You can play a game like Freerice or subscribe to Word of the Day by Dictionary.com!

4. Find the right SAT/ACT prep material.

Both the SAT and the ACT have all kinds of idiosyncrasies that you’ll need to become familiar with in order to succeed. While many students will benefit from an SAT or ACT prep course or tutoring, these are often not an option for many high schoolers. You can invest in an SAT or ACT study book instead — it’ll have many of the same tricks you’d learn from a teacher or tutor, such as specific question-answering strategies. There just won’t be anyone there to nudge you to practice or study, so that’ll be up to you.

5. Make sure you’re feeling your absolute best on test day to get a better score!

You’ve probably heard it before, but there’s nothing like a full night of sleep and healthy nutrition to put your mind at the top of its game. Don’t cram material the night before — in fact, many prep resources advise that you not study the day before — there’s nothing you can learn in a night that you haven’t already been going over for months. As for the morning of? Eat a breakfast with plenty of protein so that you’ll be full longer and give your brain the fuel it needs. Also, be sure to bring water and small snacks to eat during breaks on test day, so that you’ll have plenty of energy throughout the test. And wear comfortable clothing with layers, so that a cold classroom or an itchy sweater won’t be distracting you from doing your best work. Once you’ve gotten a score you’re happy with, you can be confident in moving forward with college applications.

Marymount University, a nationally ranked, private, doctoral-granting university in the Washington, D.C., area, offers numerous majors to choose from and opportunities to continue your education at the graduate level. We hope you’ll check out our website and learn more about being a part of the Marymount community.