It’s the beginning of summer! And for many of you, you just finished a tough school year and conquered some AP exams. The last thing on your mind is preparing for another test. You may think, “It’s okay. Many schools are extending their test-optional policies.” But the reality is many admissions offices are overwhelmed by the number of applications flooding in. In this article, Team Insight will answer 4 common questions to guide you through a quick evaluation to see if the SAT or the ACT will help strengthen your college applications!
When should I start preparing for the ACT/SAT?
Typically, the best time to start your SAT / ACT test prep is the summer before your junior year. In other words, if you just finished 10th grade, you should consider spending part of your summer on the ACT / SAT test prep.
From Insight’s 22 years of college admissions experience, we know that our juniors usually have more challenging course work and are more involved in their extracurricular activities during their school years. The summer before junior year gives you the flexibility and the time to focus on test prep. Furthermore, preparing for the ACT / SAT helps you build the stamina and study habits to handle the junior year course load. During test prep, you also strengthen crucial skills, such as time management, problem-solving, and analytical thinking. All these skills can help you handle the more challenging academic work in your junior and senior years.
Need help boosting your SAT scores? Check out our SAT summer programs here.
If you just finished your junior year (rising senior) and last year derailed you from taking or preparing for the SAT/ACT, do not freak out. You are not behind. You still have time to study for these standardized tests over the summer. Yes, you may need to balance the ACT / SAT test prep with your summer program and activities. But it is not impossible to achieve.
Taking the ACT instead? We got you covered, too, with our ACT summer boot camps.
Why should I bother with test prep now if my ACT/SAT is in the fall?
It’s a tricky scenario: a 4-hour test, targeting knowledge you’ve already learned in 8th-10th grade. It’s June and you’ve just finished school. The test date isn’t until August or September. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
For at least a century, researchers have debated the impact of “summer learning loss.” According to a recent study, the average student lost 17-34% of the prior year’s learning gains during one summer break. In other words, you probably don’t remember everything you’ve learned in 8th grade as vividly as your previous semester.
You may need to devote some time reviewing a couple of years of math and English. What’s the big deal? The challenging component of the ACT/SAT is time management. On the ACT, you have 36-60 seconds per question (depending on the section of the test), whereas you have 47-86 seconds per question on the SAT. During the time frame, you have to break down the question, recall what you’ve learned, and deduce the best answer. How can you achieve that? Like a pro-athlete, it comes down to practice, practice, and practice.
Read more: Do you need to take both the ACT and the SAT?
A strategic method to prepare for the SAT/ACT involves reviewing concepts, going through different exercises, taking full-length practice tests, and improving weak points. None of these can be accomplished in one day or even one week. It takes discipline, grit, and endurance. (And can you think of other things in your life that also take those three qualities?)
How can I build a successful test prep or study plan?
Just like any project in your life, big or small, if you want to complete the project, you need a plan. Build your test plan with a solid timeline and realistic goals. Ask a friend or a family member to check in on your progress and keep you honest. Include methods to evaluate your knowledge and your progress. In this case, you can take a practice test every day and a quiz after every review session. When you take the ACT or SAT practice test, you want to simulate the real test environment as much as possible. That means no music and no texting. Wear a mask and time yourself.
Read more: Studying in a group is scientifically awesome.
If you want to submit SAT/ACT scores to colleges, here are some first steps towards making a solid study plan:
- Take a full-length previously administered SAT or ACT exam, under realistic conditions – a quiet space, each section timed, wear a mask
- Figure out which aspects or sections are giving you the most challenge – timing, multiple-choice format, language arts, math, etc.
- Make a plan to address how you want to improve your score based on how you are doing on the practice questions
After each practice test, remember to learn from your mistakes. Go over your SAT or ACT practice test again. Check your mistakes. Work on those questions again. Be sure to figure out if you need to adjust your goals. You may need to work on your geometry or do more word problem drills. Or you may simply need to improve your speed. Much like sports, athletes devote practice sessions to work on their pitching stance or landing a quadruple jump. After every test review, you need to be honest with yourself and work through the tough parts.
Psst! Insight ACT / SAT Boot Camps offer daily diagnostic test to keep track of your progress. After the test, our expert instructors lead you through detailed test review sessions to help you learn from your mistakes. Check out our ACT boot camp schedule or the SAT boot camps.
Who benefits from preparing and taking the ACT/SAT?
Ultimately, you are studying to enrich yourself. Don’t look at standardized testing as just another assignment. The SAT and the ACT are designed to evaluate your academic college readiness – your ability to combine years of language arts and math knowledge, recall the concepts, and apply them accurately in a given time frame.
From the college admissions standpoint, having a strong test score may help your admissions chance even for test-optional colleges. Recent data has shown a higher chance of acceptance rate for those who submitted test scores than those who did not submit. Many scholarships and funding opportunities may also require test scores. More importantly, you want to provide as many, if not more, positive data relative to your peers.
Remember that your test score is just one piece of the puzzle. And as you work on each aspect of your academic profile, you are helping admissions officers understand you better. Have compassion for those in the colleges and universities to which you are applying! Let your test score support and verify the trustworthiness of your transcript – your hard-won grades.
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