It’s test prep season for high school juniors, and many will start preparing for the SAT or ACT this fall in anticipation of spring exam administrations. This year saw a lot of changes to the SAT, and for students just becoming familiar with the new exam there are a number of test prep tips to keep in mind that are very different from strategies promoted for the old test.
For those just beginning to consider test preparation, it’s important to remember that a perfect SAT or ACT score alone won’t gain admission to a top-choice college, but great scores are necessary in order to be competitive in the highly-selective college admissions process. After grades and curriculum, SAT and ACT scores are the most important college application components admissions offices consider when deciding who to admit. We advise students to begin preparing for the SAT or ACT early in order to have ample time to become acquainted with the exam format and content.
If you’re considering preparing for the new SAT, here are some test prep tips to keep in mind.
Take a diagnostic first.
Before developing a test prep plan, make sure you’re preparing for the right test. We recommend all students take a diagnostic of the SAT and ACT, in order to determine which test is best suited for students’ abilities. A diagnostic can also give insight into students’ strengths and weaknesses, and where students need to improve in order to reach their goal score.
Practice without a calculator.
Previously, students were allowed to use a calculator on the math sections of the SAT. Now, there are two math sections, one in which students are not allowed to use calculators. When preparing for the SAT, make sure to practice certain math problems without relying on your calculator. Not only will this prepare you for the calculator prohibited section, it will help reinforce key math concepts and help you work through other problems faster.
Process of elimination is your friend.
With four answer choices instead of five, and no point deduction for wrong answers, the SAT is more conducive to guessing should students be unable to arrive to the correct answer. Before guessing, however, be sure to utilize process of elimination. Narrow down your options by eliminating answer choices you know to be wrong.
Work on pacing.
The SAT is a marathon, not a sprint, however many students can run out of time before completing a section if they’re not careful. When preparing for the SAT, take practice tests under timed conditions to get used to the pace of the exam. While the SAT itself is actually shorter than the old exam, the sections are longer, giving students fewer breaks during the test. Practicing pacing is important, not only for completing sections on time, but also for ensuring students have the mental stamina to withstand the time of the test.
Practice reading for context clues.
There’s no more crazy vocabulary, but students will be tested on more colloquial words and their definitions as they are presented in reading passages. This means students will need to prepare by reading for context clues, while also examining the passage as a whole. Use school reading assignments to practice close reading for details, which will build overall reading skills that are important on the SAT.
Become familiar with graphs.
While there’s no science section, there will be science passages and related questions peppered throughout the exam. Some of these might call for students to examine charts and graphs. Students should practice by examining data and information in various charts and other visual representations in order to become more acquainted with how to best interpret data presented in that format.
Practice the essay.
If you choose to take the SAT with the optional essay, it’s important to remember that just because the essay section allows a considerably longer time than on the previous test doesn’t mean it’ll be a breeze. The new SAT essay will require students to analyze a passage and directly address a given prompt, rather than just writing about their personal opinion on a given topic. This will require students to take time to develop their writing and critical reading skills, as they will need to use evidence from the passage to support their responses. Students should practice with real prompts and work on time management for reading, planning, and writing the actual essay.
Need additional help preparing for the SAT or ACT? Our team of expert tutors can help you reach your goal scores by providing a personalized tutoring plan and timeline. Our SAT and ACT tutors are the best of the best, and, on average, students have increased their SAT scores by at least 200 points after working with a tutor.* Contact us today for more information on our test prep programs and be sure to check out our tutoring demo below.
*This score improvement is based on the previous 2400-point scale. Score improvement data for the revised SAT is not yet reported as it is still anecdotal and therefore not statistically significant.