How to Study for the SAT/ACT


Student preparing for the SAT/ACT.

Sofia Rest, Staff Writer

As my fellow seniors and juniors are aware, standardized testing is an integral part of the college application process. The SAT and ACT are two standardized tests that you may need to take during your sophomore, junior, and/or senior year. Doing well on these tests is important because many colleges require at least one score under normal circumstances. Of course, while coronavirus has forced some testing centers to cancel due to health concerns and safety restrictions, it can help your college application to have a good score under your belt if you are able to register for a date.

There are many ways to prep for the SAT/ACT if you can’t afford a tutor or want to do some studying on your own! The internet offers a wide variety of resources you can use for free, including practice tests, guides on how to ace certain parts of the test, and other materials. Below are some of the materials I’ve found most useful while studying for the SAT and ACT, along with pertinent information.
  1. Use the Khan Academy official SAT practice by linking your College Board account. Khan Academy is completely free, and its materials are written by the authors of the SAT for maximum accuracy. Practice problems are given to you based on what problems you got wrong on the PSAT/SAT through your College Board account. There are also eight full practice tests that simulate the real testing environment. Khan Academy really helped me zero in on the areas with which I was having trouble!

  2. Take the College Board PSAT practice tests found on this website: You can download and print these tests for free and calculate your own score when you finish. For sophomores or juniors taking the PSAT, you’ll be able to get a rough estimate of where you stand before taking the real test. Improving your score before taking the real test can help you qualify to be a National Merit Scholar.

  3. Take old ACT tests and score yourself so you can figure out which areas you need to work on. You can download different practice tests for free on this website:

  4. Use SAT or ACT prep books. Books can help you with test-taking strategies and will often provide you with practice tests. I recommend using “The Official SAT Study Guide 2020 Edition” (currently $29.99 on Amazon) for the SAT and “The Official ACT Prep Guide 2020-2021” (currently $38.95 on Amazon) for the ACT.

It’s super important to study smart instead of overwhelming yourself or burning yourself out. Here are some practice/review techniques that I found worked well for me:

  1. For every problem you got wrong on a practice test, identify the reason why you got the problem wrong. It could be lack of time, a careless mistake caused by stress, not understanding the actual problem, or understanding the problem but not figuring out the solution. As you go over each problem, identify which reasons cause most of your mistakes.
  2. Make sure you understand the solution to each problem you got wrong.
  3. Spend your time wisely by focusing on areas with which you struggle on practice tests. My recommendation would be to do some practice problems on Khan Academy that correspond with the section on which you got the lower score.
  4. Bring a watch with you to the testing center on testing day. Since both the SAT and ACT are timed, it’s helpful to know how much time you have left on a section instead of having to rely on the luck that there will be a clock in your testing room.

While taking a standardized test can be stressful, keep in mind that it only makes up a small part of your college application! Do your best on testing day and remember that scores do not define you. Good luck on your PSAT, SAT, or ACT!