Prepare for the SAT and ACT Now for a Higher Score Later

Tuesday, May 2

Taking the SAT or ACT tests is required in order to be admitted to most colleges and universities in the United States. Based on where you live, your intended field of study, and the institutions to which you’ll apply, you’ll be deciding to take the SAT, the ACT, or both.

The SAT, which has been administered since 1926 to college-bound students, underwent several changes with a revised version introduced this year1. The new SAT is three hours long with an additional 50 minutes for completing the optional essay. Possible scores on the SAT range from 400 to 1600, and combine test results from two 800-point sections:

1) Mathematics
2) Evidenced-Based Reading and Writing.

The ACT, the SAT’s “competition,” was first administered in 1959 and is comprised of four sections: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. The ACT is three hours and 35 minutes long with an additional 40 minutes for completing the optional writing test. The main four tests are scored individually on a scale of 1–36, and the final composite score is the average of the four combined scores from each section.

A good (or great!) SAT or ACT score is one of the key determinants in whether you’ll be admitted to the college or university of your choice. The higher your score, the better your application will look to admission boards.

But don’t panic! Prior to sitting for the actual SAT or ACT, there are several steps you can take to give yourself the best chance for scoring well:

 

Take a practice test.

Whether you intend to take the SAT, ACT, or both, a practice test is a good place to start. This will give you a baseline score to build on. The results of the practice test will help you identify any weaknesses in specific subject areas to which you need to devote extra study. Another advantage to taking a practice test is that it will familiarize you with the directions, sections, and scoring system before taking the “real” test. The SAT and ACT each have different ways of scoring answers.

Being familiar with the testing format can go a long way in helping to decrease anxiety when the time comes to take the test—when the scores will really count. Students now have access to high-quality SAT practice tests for free. Online students can practice anytime, anywhere. You can also find ACT questions on the ACT website or purchase a book that offers three ACT tests from the testing company. A short list of free SAT and ACT practice test sites can be found here.

Take a self-study course.

After you’ve taken a free practice test or three, you should have a sense of where you need to focus your energies in studying for the actual SAT or ACT. If you prefer preparing and studying on your own, there are multiple free online resources provided by the College Board, the organization that developed the SAT. The ACT also provides online study resources for free.

Take a test prep course.

Some students thrive in a one-on-one teaching setting, while others benefit more from group studies. Based on the type of learner you are, there may be free or low-cost test prep classed offered by universities and community colleges local to you, or even by your own high school. Schedule a meeting with your high school guidance counselor to discuss what resources are available in your local community.

Generally, college-bound students take the real SAT or ACT in their junior year of high school. At this point, you should have already completed the majority of coursework, and any additional studying and pre-test activities, that will help you score your best on the test. If you test in your junior year and believe you can improve your score, you’ll still have the time and option of retaking the test in the fall of your senior year.

Take a retest.

Research has indicated that students who retake their test often improve their scores3. However, a student should not take tests repeatedly unless he or she is confident that doing so will result in significantly better results. The time, energy, and financial resources devoted to retesting might be used better by the student to finishing your senior year strong and improving your grade point average.

At Grace College, while standardized test scores are considered part of the admission process, our students are much more than their SAT or ACT score. Grace College students are both academically and spiritually motivated. In addition to awarding bachelor’s and master’s degrees, we emphasize a Biblical worldview and teach our students to own their faith and to recognize Scripture as the inerrant and inspired Word of God. Connect with us to learn more about Grace College and our admission standards.

And remember, start preparing now for the SAT and ACT to achieve a higher score later!