When it comes to preparing for the SAT & ACT test, it can be very easy to sign up for a tutoring program a few months out and then sit back and wait for it to begin while the valuable months leading up to the exam pass by. This is often a result of feeling completely lost in regard to the various aspects of the exam. The fact is, however, that there is much students can do to start preparing long before tutoring begins.


SAT & ACT Practice Tests are Essential

As a tutor, I find that many students and parents, are anxious about the test because of what they have heard from friends and acquaintances, but they have not actually looked at a real test themselves. Just thumbing through an actual test or trying out some questions can go a long way to ease the stress of being overwhelmed by the unknown. 

With so many exam prep websites available, it’s easy to find an old SAT or ACT practice test to try. Get familiar and review the practice test to get an idea of what the actual test will look like and give students some comfort in knowing what they are in for. But more importantly, students can get a feel for what testing element or area they might find challenging for them.  As a quick note, it’s important for those taking the SAT to find a practice test that is no older than 2016 since the test changed drastically that year. 

What’s Actually on the SAT & ACT Test?

As a tutor, I get asked this question very often, “Are there any specific  subject area or material should I brush up on?” Well… yes and no. There’s no definitive answer as there’s just no way to be sure what they’ll add to the college entrance exam every year. The questions they ask are varied and wide in range to the test and give colleges have a clear picture of your aptitude. But yes, there are certain subjects that are consistently in each entrance exam test, so be sure to give a little extra time to study and review them accordingly.

Math Review: Fundamental Algebra

 As far as math is concerned, it is highly suggested to be knowledgeable with fundamental Algebra skills. For the SAT, an extremely large proportion of the math test comes directly from Algebra I and Algebra II topics. For those who are anxiously unsure about where to start, those fundamentals are hands down the best time investment for early review. Only a tiny sliver of the questions are going to come from more advanced classes like Trigonometry. The range of math topics for the ACT is definitely broader, but the Algebra fundamentals are still probably the best time investment as there will be plenty of this on the test. Additionally, those foundational skills will be invaluable if the tutor needs to crash-course the student on a handful of more advanced topics. 


English Review: Reading

My advice for the English portions is simple: read! I cannot tell you how many students I’ve encountered who virtually do not read at all outside of class and how that hinders their ability to score high in the exam. It is by far the biggest difference I’ve seen between student scores and how the student performs on the English portion of their SAT or ACT.  I am not suggesting kids start to read Shakespeare but instead, start having them incorporate reading into their daily schedule, a few minutes a day as leisure time. You can help your student get into the habit of reading, while ensuring their reading skills are ready for their college entrance exam.

I would suggest giving them reading materials with science and/or travel articles.  Since these articles are not strictly fictional and deal with scientific topics, they are usually written with a clear presentation of ideas very common on the SAT and ACT. Basically, in the age of social media and texts, I find that more and more students struggle to see the clear connection of ideas in article-length material.  Any  reading practice with this can help a great deal, though novel reading is also wonderful!

To sum up, even if the SAT & ACT test prep is intimidating, there are plenty of ways your student can prepare right now.  Gaining that initial familiarity with the test will help everyone feel less stressed, and since both tests are heavily focused on assessing foundational math and English skills, working on these fundamentals will benefit a student throughout the entire process. 

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