Studying for Undergraduate Admissions Tests

If you're planning to go to college, taking the SAT Reasoning Test™ or the ACT® is practically mandatory, and most students sit for at least one round of testing in their junior or senior year. Because doing well is crucial for most high school students, knowing how to study will help you achieve your goal of getting into college. Here's how you should organize your time when studying for the SAT Reasoning Test or ACT.

Two Years Ahead

By the end of ninth grade, decide whether you'd rather take the SAT Reasoning Test or the ACT. If you enjoy science and social studies, the ACT gives you a chance to shine in these areas. The SAT, on the other hand, is preferred by students who are well read, have a strong vocabulary and enjoy problem solving. Discuss your choice with your college counselor and try a practice test for both to help you decide.

Next, register for college preparatory or honors courses at your school for tenth and eleventh grade to get the solid foundation in English and math that you need for excellent scores on these tests. Work on improving your expository essay writing and taking higher-level math courses like geometry and trigonometry to build your skills.

One Year Ahead

Take a practice test and analyze your results to see how you did. Note which categories of questions you did poorly on so you can focus your studying on those areas. For example, if you know you need assistance with your writing, ask your English teacher for practice questions that you can work on once a week. If geometry is your weak spot, get some after-school tutoring to build your knowledge of all those theorems.

Six Months Ahead

Register for your test date, making sure to choose a time of year when you won't be in the middle of a sports season or starting a new summer job. Continue focusing on your daily academics, but add regular practice exams to your routine. You can practice a different subject test each weekend and/or answer a single practice question per day to get used to the testing format. Be sure to verify the answers and understand your mistakes to get the most out of these study sessions.

Three Months Ahead

Sit down to take a full, timed practice test so you can get used to the way you'll feel when the big moment finally arrives. Sit at a desk in a quiet room with a clock, pencils and no distractions. Take the test as if it were real. Note which sections stressed you out and what felt easy, so you know how to better manage your time for the next round. You can also study up on areas where you didn't score well.

Two Weeks Ahead

By now you should have three to five unique practice tests under your belt. Don't cram any more. Instead, focus on nutritious eating and sufficient rest so you can do your absolute best on test day.



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