By Chelsea Arangcon
For students who are planning to go straight to a four year university/college after high school, you most likely need to take the SAT or the ACT. Depending on the college, many schools require medium to high scores for either of the two tests. The PSAT, though not required, however is good prep for the SAT.
PSAT’s can be helpful, if you reach California’s cutoff score you’ll become either a National Merit Semifinalist or a National Merit Commended Student. If you score high on the SAT as well you could earn the National Merit Scholarship. There are many differences between the SAT and the ACT with the main difference being time pressure. The ACT would be more suitable for those who work well under a time pressure, while those who don’t the SAT may be a better choice.
PSAT’s are just around the corner and SAT/ACT testing is nearly all year round, here is a compiled lists of tips to properly prepare:
For the PSAT:
- Practice by taking a prep test for the PSAT. According to Method Prep Test, you can find an online practice test on the PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) Official Student Guide. By taking practice tests you can get a feel for the format, structure, and kinds of questions that’ll be on the official PSAT.
- Kaplan recommends using the “Elimination” method when trying to narrow down the correct answer. Fortunately, there is no penalty for guessing on the PSAT, SAT, or ACT! Scoring on these tests is based on how many questions you answer correctly, so you should strive to answer the questions you believe are the easiest.
For the SAT/ACT:
- Learn the directions of whichever test you plan taking, since they are the same for every practice and official test. By doing this, you can save yourself a minute to focus more on the questions.
- Check your answer sheet regularly to make sure you are bubbling in the correct answer underneath the right question.
- PrepScholar believes “As a rule of thumb, if you feel like you’re not any closer to figuring out a question after about 30 seconds of looking at it, you should move on.” Try answering all the easiest questions to rack in as many points as possible, if you have time after going through the entire section, return to the questions you skipped.
- With time pressure, try your best to remain calm. This one is not necessarily easiest to follow, however, keep in mind the more you stress out- the more likely you are to answer more questions incorrectly.
I also got the chance to interview my math tutor, Dr. Sunil Kishnani, (who happens to tutor for the SAT/ACT math sections). He’s narrowed down his best recommendations for the tests:
- Start Early. It’s a good time to start sometime around the end of sophomore year- even better to start practicing before sophomore year ends.
- Study in tiny portions everyday, in this way, you can strengthen and build your skills.
- Take as many practice tests from the Official College Board or official released practice tests.
- Focus on accuracy while studying (making sure you understand each concept) then focus on speed. Without accuracy, you can’t have speed!
He also suggests taking a diagnostic test for the SAT/ACT to see which one you prefer. If you work well under time pressure, the ACT would be more suitable but if you don’t work well under time pressure, opt to take the SAT.
He believes the best time to take the SAT/ACT is around your junior year, September or October, since it’s better to get it over with and focus on AP exams and other tests at the end of the year.
Some good resources to use while studying for these standardized tests include the Official College Board book (for the SAT) or the Real ACT book. Khan Academy also offers a free online study section for the SAT. Taking practice or released tests from the Official College Board or ACT websites may help as well.
Kishnani believes it is a personal decision whether to find a SAT/ACT tutor, however, if you aren’t satisfied with your score from the first time taking the test- it may be best to find a tutor to increase your score.
He parts with only one comment- aim to take the test only once just to get over it, then prepare accordingly.
Something important to remember to use a No. 2 pencil since the SAT doesn’t allow mechanical pencils; the ACT also claims the answer sheet will not accurately be scored. And when the time has ended for certain sections, do not go back to it nor move on to the next section of the test when the time hasn’t finished for the section you finished working on, you will be disqualified and sent home.
Now that you’ve learned the best tips to prepare for all these standardized tests, have fun studying!