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Get Time on Your Side: SAT/ACT Test Prep Tips

Do you know what the number one score killer is for the SAT and ACT? Time. If you don’t take the time for ACT and SAT test prep, you could end up with a lower score than you’re hoping for. If you don’t take practice tests and learn how to manage your minutes for the timed sections, you might not have enough time to complete the exams.

If you want to do well on these college entrance tests, you need to take the time to prepare. The subjects and content areas covered in the ACT and SAT may seem like a simple review of your high school knowledge, but you might not be familiar with how the tests are designed and structured as well as with how the questions and possible answers are phrased. Yes, you need to review your general grasp of high school material, but you also should spend a great deal of time using tools specifically designed to help you learn how to take these specific exams.

Remember, the ACT and SAT tests are standardized, so students from coast to coast with vastly different educational backgrounds all take the same tests. Given the diversity of test takers, the ACT and SAT are not as much measures of what you know as they are of your ability to choose the best answers.

Prepare for the SAT and ACT with Practice Tests

Exercise your test-taking skills by engaging in as many practice tests as possible. Time yourself. Practice answering the questions that click with you first, eliminate the obviously wrong answers and then identify the correct answer. The key is to save the hardest questions in each section for the last portion of time for that section.

How to Prepare for the SAT or ACT

  • Take the PLAN (prep for the ACT) and the PSAT (prep for the SAT) during your sophomore year of high school. They’re a great opportunity to work on your test-taking strategies and troubleshoot areas for improvement.
  • Get a personal tutor who specializes in helping students prepare for the SAT or ACT. Tutors can help you master weaker subject areas and learn time management.
  • Take prep courses, such as those offered at Kaplan; they will give you sample tests and help you overcome the types of questions that trouble you. 
  • Play Zero Hour Threat, our ACT/SAT prep video game. It can help you build your skills while having fun at the same time. Beat the game, beat the test!
  • Use ACT and SAT study books, which are full of practice tests and study tips.
  • Use an ACT or SAT test-prep booklet (My College Options offers two books to help you prepare for the exams: The Essential Guide to the SAT and The Essential Guide to the ACT).

Test Day Tips

  • Bring a watch. Time management is up to you! Yes, the proctors tell you how much time you have for each section, when to start, when to stop and when you have five minutes left. But you should pay attention to how long you are taking on the questions so you can pace yourself during the test.
  • Manage your time. Move through each section calmly. Answer the questions that come easiest to you first and return to the “stumpers” afterward.
  • Use the process of elimination. You can usually narrow your choices down to two possible correct answers. That will give you a 50% chance of getting the correct answer.



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Don Munce