For high school seniors hoping to attend college, one of the most important aspects of the admissions process is getting a competitive score on college admissions exams. In the United States, there are two such exams: the SAT and the ACT. But it can be quite confusing and challenging to determine which exam is the best one to take for you. This guide will give you all the necessary information you need to make a good decision as to whether you should take the ACT, the SAT, or perhaps even both!

What Is the SAT?

The SAT is one of the most important tasks that college hopefuls must endure to be eligible for admission at the thousands of U.S. universities. At its most basic, the SAT is simply an exam. But anyone who has ever taken the test knows it’s much more than that. Every year, millions of American high school seniors sit this notorious exam, knowing just how much their future education depends on getting a competitive score. While the SAT is indeed a challenging–and somewhat confounding–exam, we’re here to give you all the information you need when facing this high-stakes endeavor.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the most important details about the SAT, including costs, testing dates, registration process, scoring, and more. But far more important than all that, we’ll also give you our expert advice on how to prepare for this crucial exam, including a study plan that works with any of the best SAT prep books and study guides or best SAT prep courses. When you’re finished reading this brief guide, you’ll have all the tools you need to get the competitive score necessary to get into your dream school. So, let’s get started with the basics!

What Is the SAT Exam?

By now, you’re probably somewhat familiar with what the SAT is, but it’s a good idea to read through this section anyway. You might be surprised at some of the misconceptions you’ve had about this famous exam.

First of all, “SAT” is an acronym for “Scholastic Aptitude Test.” Now, let’s break that down a bit:

  • “Scholastic” – This simply refers to “school stuff.” That is, “scholastic” just means that the exam is meant to assess your aptitude as a student of academics–the stuff you learn in school.
  • “Aptitude” – This term is a bit thornier and, in fact, is quite controversial. In general, it means something like an “ability to do something.” Some definitions go a bit further and say it refers to a “natural” ability, but such language is problematic for many reasons that we can’t get into here. Instead, just know that, in the context of the SAT, “aptitude” merely means the skills you have in academic (“scholastic”) topics.
  • “Test” – Nothing surprising here: the SAT is, after all, an exam or test that is intended to assess your academic abilities.

So, What Is the SAT For?

In short, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (the SAT) is an exam that is designed to gauge your readiness to take on college-level coursework and your potential to succeed at it. But let’s dig a little deeper into the background of this infamous exam–specifically, who makes it, what it’s for, and most importantly, what’s on it.

Who Makes the SAT?

Since its inception in 1926, the SAT has been developed, produced, and administered by a non-for-profit organization called the College Board, which itself has been around since 1899. The College Board has many functions, but it’s main focus is on–you guessed it–standardized tests. While the SAT is by far the most widely used standardized test that the College Board produces, it also administers other exams like Advanced Placement (AP) exams and the placement exam known as Accuplacer. The College Board is funded through a combination of the fees it assesses for its exams and grants from educational foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

SAT Essential Information

Now that we have some of that general information out of the way, it’s time to get down to some specifics. Let’s start by covering some of the most important details for any SAT-taker: the when, the how, and the where.

When Is the SAT Exam?

When it comes to the SAT, there are two crucial dates you need to set and mark on your calendar: the registration deadline and, of course, the day of the actual test. Unlike many other standardized tests, which are offered frequently throughout the year, the SAT exam is only offered on a limited number of test dates–all Saturdays–each year. The following chart lays out each of the days the SAT is administered for the 2019-2020 school year, along with the corresponding registration deadlines.

2019 – 2020 SAT Exam Dates and Registration Deadlines

SAT Exam Date Registration Deadline Late Registration Deadline Score Reports Released
August 24, 2019 July 26, 2019 July 26, 2019 September 6, 2019
October 5, 2019 September 6, 2019 September 24, 2019 October 18, 2019
November 2, 2019 October 3, 2019 October 22, 2019 November 15, 2019
December 7, 2019 November 8, 2019 November 26, 2019 December 20, 2019
March 14, 2020 February 14, 2020 March 3, 2020 March 27, 2020
February 14, 2020 April 3, 2020 April 21, 2020 May 15, 2020
June 6, 2020 May 8, 2020 May 27, 2020 July 15, 2020

How do You Register for the SAT?

These days, it seems everything can be done online, and registering for the SAT is no exception. That said, there is a bit more that you should take into account before you hop online and register for the first testing date you see. So, before you start the registration process, consider the following:

  1. Which SAT exam date is going to give you sufficient time to prepare?
  2. If you plan on taking the SAT more than once (and most students probably should), when is the best time to take the first one so you have time to assess your results and focus your studies to improve on the second one?
  3. What is your schedule likely to be during the months before each of the available test dates?

There are, of course, numerous other factors that you should take into consideration when selecting your desired SAT exam date, depending on your own circumstances. The most important thing, though, is to carefully assess how much time you need to prepare for the exam and when you are going to have that time to spare.

But, once you’ve determined the right test date for you, all you have to do to register is go to this page on the College Board website, click register, and follow the directions from there. Easy, right? Well, now we have to move on to the part that’s not so easy: what’s actually on the SAT exam.

What’s on the SAT?

Ok, now for the hard stuff–the actual content that you’ll encounter on the SAT. While we won’t go into great detail here—that’s what SAT prep courses and SAT prep books are for—let’s take a broad overview of the exam’s structure and the time limit for each section. First, we should note that, while you’ll see this chart is divided into five sections, there are really only two overall sections (excluding the optional essay assessment): 1) Reading, Writing and Language; and 2) Mathematics.

SAT Exam Section Time Number of Questions Types of Tasks
Reading 65 minutes 52 multiple-choice Questions based on reading passages
Writing and Language 35 minutes 44 multiple-choice Vocabulary, editing skills, grammar
Mathematics (no calculator) 25 minutes 20 multiple-choice Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, basic Trigonometry
Mathematics (calculator allowed) 55 minutes 38 multiple-choice
Optional Essay 50 minutes 1 essay prompt Essay based on a reading passage

How Is the SAT Scored?

The somewhat unorthodox way the SAT is scored has been a source of confusion for test-takers for decades, but we’re going to break it down for you here.

At its most basic, the SAT scoring system is on a 400- to 1600-point scale, comprised of the scores on the two sections (reading and writing, math), each of which are on an 200- to 800-point scale. Thus, as you’ve probably guessed, your composite SAT score is simply the sum of your scores on each of the two main sections. But this is where things start to get a little complicated…

“Scaled” vs. “Raw” SAT Scores

The scores just mentioned refer to your “scaled” SAT scores–that is, the scores that are reported to your prospective schools when you send them your score reports. Simply put, when someone asks “What did you get on the SAT?” they’re most likely asking for your scaled SAT score–the one on a 1600-point scale. But how does the College Board determine your scaled SAT score?

The short answer: we don’t know. All we know is that the College Board uses a method called “equating” to translate your “raw” SAT score (that is, the number of questions you answered correctly) into your scaled SAT score. This system of “equating” is designed to compensate for slight variations in different versions of the test, so it’s impossible to know exactly the calculation the College Board uses for any given version of the exam.

There is one more crucial aspect of SAT scoring that you need to be aware of: there is no penalty for skipped or incorrect answers. In other words, your raw SAT score is simply the number of questions you answered correctly. Period.

What’s the Average SAT Score?

According to the most recent data from the College Board, the national average composite (total) SAT score is 1068. As for the individual SAT sections, the average scores are as follows:

  • Reading, Writing, and Language – 536
  • Mathematics – 531

While this information isn’t all that useful, since each school has its own standards for SAT scores, it can provide something of a basic benchmark. Indeed, scoring above the national average is nothing to sneeze at. On the other hand, for more selective academic institution, you’ll need to do far better than merely score higher than this average. But, for the sake of simplicity, it’s a safe bet to assume that virtually any four-year university is going to expect SAT scores from its applicants that are some measure above the national average.

In the next section, we’ll cover the score ranges that you should aim for to be more competitive in the admissions process.

What’s a Good SAT Score for College Admissions?

So, now we know what the national average SAT score is, but what kind of SAT score would be considered a “good” score?

Well, as you might have guessed, this is a complicated question that has no single easy answer. There are, of course, many factors that go into determining what makes a “good” SAT score for each individual and, more importantly, for each college. The best way to get a sense of what a good SAT score is for you is to look up the middle range (25th to 75th percentile) of SAT scores reported at your prospective schools, using a search tool like the one from The Princeton Review.

For example, let’s take a look at the mid-range SAT scores for a handful of schools with varying acceptance rates for a comparison.

School Acceptance Rate SAT Composite Scores (25th-75th Percentile)
Kent State University 88% 1040 – 1220
Gonzaga University 66% 1183 – 1350
University of Georgia 54% 1200 – 1370
UC Santa Barbara 33% 1370 – 1530
Georgetown University 15% 1370 – 1530
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 7% 1500 – 1570
Obviously, this is just a small sampling of the variety that you can expect when considering acceptable and competitive SAT scores for different universities and colleges throughout the US, but it gives you some idea of how these scores tend to be distributed.

But what about those especially high achieving students among you? Before we move on, let’s take a look at what kinds of SAT scores you need to be a competitive applicant at the most prestigious universities in the country: the Ivy League.

What’s a Good SAT Score for Ivy League College Admissions?

Here, you’ll find the acceptance rates and composite SAT score ranges for the eight Ivy League schools. Think you have what it takes to compete for one of the few coveted spots at these top-tier universities?

Ivy League School Acceptance Rate SAT Composite Scores (25th-75th Percentile)
Cornell University 11% 1390 – 1540
Dartmouth College 10% 1430 – 1560
Brown University 8% 1420 – 1550
University of Pennsylvania 8% 1440 – 1560
Yale University 7% 1430 – 1600
Princeton University 6% 1430 – 1570
Harvard College 5% 1460 – 1580
Obviously, this is just a small sampling of the variety that you can expect when considering acceptable and competitive SAT scores for different universities and colleges throughout the US, but it gives you some idea of how these scores tend to be distributed.

But what about those especially high achieving students among you? Before we move on, let’s take a look at what kinds of SAT scores you need to be a competitive applicant at the most prestigious universities in the country: the Ivy League.

What’s the SAT Adversity Score?

In recent years, the College Board had begun trying out an “adversity index” with around 50 higher education institutions. The purpose of this adversity index was to provide additional context for students’ SAT scores by considering their socio-economic circumstances–both advantages and disadvantages. This system came as a response to the ongoing criticism of the SAT due to the stark disparity in SAT scores among wealthier students as compared to students from economically-disadvantaged families, as you can see in the chart below (note: this data is from 2013, but the trend is consistent for every year the SAT has been administered).

However, due to increasing backlash over what some have said was a tone-deaf attempt to reduce adversity to a single number, the College Board has recently decided to replace the adversity score with a more holistic overview of student adversity. The new program, dubbed the student “Landscape,” offers colleges socio-economic information and background on each student’s neighborhood and high school, in an attempt to provide more a more honest and useful context in which to view and compare students’ SAT scores. The program is very new, so it remains to be seen how it will impact students, colleges, or the admissions process.

What Is the ACT?

​Like its counterpart, the SAT, the ACT is a standardized test designed to assess a student’s aptitude for college-level study. More importantly, though, it’s one of the two tests you can take as a requirement for college applications. Like the SAT, the ACT is accepted universally throughout the United States. While it is used for much the same purposes as the SAT, the ACT is a very different exam. It’s important to know the details of both the ACT and the SAT before you decide which exam is going to be the best option for you.

In this guide to the ACT, we’ll go over everything you need to know to make a smart decision. We’ll start by explaining what the ACT is more specifically, then move on to a discussion of the ACT’s content, methods of scoring, and average test scores. Then, we’ll compare the ACT and the SAT to give you a better sense of which one you’re best suited to. Finally, we’ll give you our top ACT preparation tips, including how to get the most out of the best ACT prep courses. Let’s get to work!

So, What Is the ACT For?

As we mentioned, the ACT exam is a college admissions exam designed to measure test-takers’ aptitude for college-level coursework. While there are many criticisms of the concept of an “aptitude test,” the ACT, just like the SAT, remains a crucial part of the college admissions process. While your score on one of these exams won’t necessarily make or break your chances of getting admitted to your dream school, a good score can go a long way toward making a strong case.

Who Makes the ACT?

The ACT has been developed and administered since its inception in 1959 by ACT, Inc., a nonprofit organization. While ACT, Inc. does have other function, it’s primary focus is on making and distributing the ACT exam.

ACT Essential Information

Now that you know a bit about the background of the ACT exam, let’s cover some of the most important details that you need to know if you’re considering taking this exam. We’ll cover ACT test dates and the registration process.

When Is the ACT Exam?

Just like the SAT, the ACT is offered seven times each year. The following table lays out everything you need to know about test dates, registration deadlines, and score report release dates. Pay special attention to these dates, as it is incredibly important that you plan your ACT testing strategically, to give yourself enough time to prepare and, if you are unhappy with your score, to retest.

2019 – 2020 ACT Exam Dates and Registration Deadlines

ACT Exam Date Registration Deadline Late Registration Deadline Score Reports Released
September 14, 2019 August 16, 2019 August 17-30, 2019 September 24, 2019
October 26, 2019 September 20, 2019 September 21-October 4, 2019 November 12, 2019
December 14, 2019 November 8, 2019 November 9-22, 2019 December 26, 2019
February 8, 2020 January 10, 2020 January 11-17, 2020 February 25, 2020
April 4, 2020 February 28, 2020 February 29-March 13, 2020 April 14, 2020
June 13, 2020 May 8, 2020 May 9-22, 2020 June 23, 2020
July 18, 2020 June 19, 2020 June 20-26, 2020 July 28, 2020

How do You Register for the ACT?

There are essentially only two ways to register for the ACT exam: by mail and online. To register online–which is obviously the most common and preferred choice–simply go to the ACT website here, and create a new account. Once you have an account, click “Register” and begin filling out the requested information. You’ll need the following information to complete the registration process:

  • Your full name
  • Address
  • Email
  • Social security number
  • Parent’s name
  • Parent’s email
  • High school classes and grades
  • Digital headshot
  • Credit card

Next, you’ll be asked to select your desired ACT exam date. Choose carefully! After that, you need to choose the version of the ACT you wish to take: the ACT plus writing or the ACT without writing. This is important: while the ACT doesn’t require you to take the writing portion, some colleges do! So, be sure to check the requirements for all the schools you wish to apply to before making a selection.

Next, you’ll need to select the colleges that will receive your ACT scores. You aren’t required to submit this information at the time of registration, but if you choose to add the score recipients after the test, you will have to pay $12 per recipient.

Finally, you need to select the test center at which you plan to sit the exam.

What’s on the ACT?

While we can’t go into all of the details about the content of the ACT in this introductory article, we can give you a general idea of the basic structure and types of questions you’ll find on the ACT. The following chart outlines the five ACT test sections (including the optional writing assessment), along with the time limit for each section, number of questions, and the kinds of questions you’ll encounter.

ACT Exam Section Time Number of Questions Types of Tasks
English 45 minutes 75 multiple-choice Usage, grammar, sentence structure, style, organization, punctuation
Math 60 minutes 60 multiple-choice Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Trigonometry
Reading 35 minutes 40 multiple-choice Reading comprehension and reasoning
Science 35 minutes 40 multiple-choice Scientific interpretation, analysis, reasoning, problem solving
Optional Writing 40 minutes 1 essay prompt Writing skills

How Is the ACT Scored?

Just like the SAT, the ACT is scored by taking your “raw score” and converting it into a “scaled score.” On the ACT, your “raw score” is simply the number of questions you answered correctly. And, like the SAT, there is no deduction in points for incorrect answers–you simply don’t get those points.

The “scaled score,” however, is the score that actually matters, as it is the score that is sent to your prospective schools. While the actual formula used by ACT to convert your raw scores into “scaled scores” is unknown, ACT does provide a conversion to give you a sense of how it’s done. The following chart shows the ACT raw score to scaled score equivalents.

Scaled Scores Raw Sores
English Math Reading Science
36 74-75 59-60 40 40
35 71-73 57-58 38-39
34 70 55-56 37 39
33 69 54 36 38
32 68 53 34-35
31 67 51-52 33 37
30 66 49-50 32 36
29 64-65 47-48 31
28 63 45-46 30 35
27 61-62 42-44 34
26 59-60 39-41 29 32-33
25 56-58 37-38 28 31
24 53-55 34-36 26-27 29-30
23 50-52 32-33 25 26-28
22 47-49 31 23-24 24-25
21 44-46 29-30 22 22-23
20 41-43 27-28 20-21 20-21
19 39-40 25-26 19 18-19
18 37-38 22-24 18 17
17 35-36 19-21 16-17 15-16
16 32-34 16-18 15 14
15 29-31 13-15 14 13
14 26-28 10-12 12-13 11-12
13 24-25 8-9 11 10
12 22-23 7 10 9
11 19-21 5-6 8-9 8
10 16-18 4 7 7
9 13-15 6 6
8 11-12 3 5 5
7 9-10 4
6 7-8 2 4 3
5 6 3
4 4-5 1 2 2
3 3 1
2 2 1
1 0-1 0 0 0

What’s the Average ACT Score?

The national average scaled ACT score is 20.8. This average score can serve as a useful benchmark as you prepare for the ACT and set goals for the kind of score you want to achieve. That said, a much better indicator of the kind of performance you should strive for on the ACT is the median score range of the schools you’d most like to attend. While we obviously can’t provide this information for every school in the US, in the following sections, we’ve provided charts to help guide your goal-setting, based on median ACT scores for schools from a wide range of prestige and with varying degrees of competitiveness.

What’s a Good ACT Score for College Admissions?

For starters, the following chart presents the median score ranges (25th-75th percentiles) of students admitted to several universities. The universities are sorted by acceptance rate, from least competitive to most competitive (excluding Ivy League schools, which we’ll cover in the next section). You’ll notice, as you might have expected, that there is a direct correlation between a school’s competitiveness and the median score range for its admitted students.

School Acceptance Rate ACT Scores (25th-75th Percentile)
Kent State University 88% 21 – 25
Gonzaga University 66% 25 – 30
University of Georgia 54% 26 – 31
UC Santa Barbara 33% 26 – 32
Georgetown University 15% 31 – 34
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 7% 34 -36

What’s the Average ACT Score?

The national average scaled ACT score is 20.8. This average score can serve as a useful benchmark as you prepare for the ACT and set goals for the kind of score you want to achieve. That said, a much better indicator of the kind of performance you should strive for on the ACT is the median score range of the schools you’d most like to attend. While we obviously can’t provide this information for every school in the US, in the following sections, we’ve provided charts to help guide your goal-setting, based on median ACT scores for schools from a wide range of prestige and with varying degrees of competitiveness.

What’s a Good ACT Score for Ivy League College Admissions?

Now that you have an idea of the score ranges for several different schools of varying competitiveness, it’s a good time to cover the median ACT score ranges for the most competitive colleges of all: the Ivy League. You’ll notice that there’s not much daylight separating the scores for these schools, will all of them commanding the very highest ACT scores. Do you have what it takes to score in these top-tier ranges and land a spot at one of the most prestigious schools in the world?

Ivy League School Acceptance Rate ACT Scores (25th-75th Percentile)
Cornell University 11% 32 – 34
Dartmouth College 10% 30 – 34
Brown University 8% 32 – 35
University of Pennsylvania 8% 32 – 35
Yale University 7% 31 – 35
Princeton University 6% 32 – 35
Harvard College 5% 33 – 35

ACT vs. SAT Comparison – Which Is Right for You?

Even though the ACT and the SAT are both standardized tests designed for essentially the same purpose—measuring your aptitude to be successful at the college level—the exams are actually quite different in several different ways. Perhaps the most significant distinction is that the ACT includes a science section, while the SAT does not. But there are plenty of other crucial differences, and we’ve laid them out in the simple chart below.

ACT vs. SAT: Similarities and Differences

Here, you’ll find a handy chart that presents the similarities and differences between the ACT and the SAT. While this is by no means a comprehensive comparison, it will provide you with the most important information to help you decide which test is right for you.

SAT vs. ACT
3 hours (no essay)
3 hours 50 minutes (with essay)
Duration 2 hours 55 minutes (no essay)
3 hours 35 minutes (with essay)
  • Reading: 52 questions
  • Writing & Language: 44 questions
  • Math: 48 questions
Number of Questions
  • English: 75 questions
  • Math: 60 questions
  • Reading: 40 questions
  • Science: 40 questions
Range: 400 – 1600 Scoring Range: 1 – 36
  • No Essay: $47.50
  • With Essay: $64.50
Cost
  • No essay: $50.50
  • With Essay: $67.00
Seven per year Test Dates Seven per year
  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra I
  • Algebra II
  • Geometry
  • Trigonometry
  • Data Analysis
Math Content
  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra I
  • Algebra II
  • Geometry (more so than SAT)
  • Trigonometry (more so than SAT)
  • Probability and Statistics
One part of math section allows calculators; the other part does not Calculator Use? Calculator allowed on all questions
None Science Content Science section assesses scientific critical thinking (not specific content knowledge in science)

ACT vs. ACT – Which Is Harder?

The answer to the question which is harder: the ACT or the SAT? is impossible to answer definitively, since every test taker is different. That said, there are some obvious factors of each exam that can help you make a decision as to which is the best one for you. Depending on your strengths and weaknesses (both academically and as a test taker), it’s possible to make a guess as to which one you are best suited to perform well on.

But rather than list all of these factors out, we’ve made it even easier for you. Simply follow the instructions below to take a quiz that will give you some solid insight into which test you might prefer.

Instructions: For each of the following statements, determine if the statement is true for you. If you agree with the statement, circle the number next to it. When you’re finished, total up all the circled numbers and compare your results with the guide at the end.

I’m good at geometry and trigonometry. 2
I’m not great at mental math. 2
I enjoy science. 3
I have a hard time supporting answers with evidence. 1
I can express my opinions better than I can analyze an argument. 2
I struggle with math exams. 1
I tend to remember math formulas. 2
I prefer multiple choice math questions. 2

Results Guide:

Score Preferred Exam
0 – 6 SAT
7 – 9 Either/Both
10 – 15 ACT
Of course, the best way to really determine which is the better test for you is to take a couple practice ACT exams and a couple practice SAT exams. Then, take the average of the two scores for each test, and assess which average score is going to make you the most competitive as a college applicant.

ACT to SAT Score Conversion

If you do decide to take some practice SAT exams and practice ACT exams to get a feel for which one you think you can perform best on, it’s a good idea to compare the scores on each. We recommend taking two practice SATs and two practice ACTs. Then, average the two scores for each exam. Once you have your averages, use the following chart to compare. For instance. If your ACT average is 30, and your SAT average is 1330, then it makes sense to assume that the ACT is the better test for you. Why? Because an ACT score of 30 is roughly equivalent to an SAT score of 1360-1380, which is a bit higher than your actual SAT average.

ACT Composite Score SAT Composite Score
36 1570-1600
35 1530-1560
34 1490-1520
33 1450-1480
32 1420-1440
31 1390-1410
30 1360-1380
29 1330-1350
28 1300-1320
27 1260-1290
26 1230-1250
25 1200-1220
24 1160-1190
23 1130-1150
22 1100-1120
21 1060-1090
20 1030-1050
19 990-1020
18 960-980
17 920-950
16 880-910
15 830-870
14 780-820
13 730-770
12 690-720
11 650-680
10 620-640
9 590-610

4 Best Ways to Prepare for the SAT and ACT

If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably more than ready to finally get to some ACT and SAT prep advice, and we won’t disappoint. Here, we’ll offer our four best tips on how to get the most out of your ACT and SAT prep. These tips may seem simple, but they are crucial to your success on this challenging exam.

1. Take as Many Practice ACT or SAT Exams as You Can

As with any standardized test, taking practice ACT and SAT exams is the most important thing you can do to prepare for test day. Why? There are two main reasons. For one, taking practice exams will help you become comfortable with the test structure, format, procedure, and duration. This will ensure you are able to manage your time wisely for the real thing. Second, taking SAT and ACT practice exams will allow you to use the results to direct your ongoing SAT or ACT study plan. How else will you know where to focus your test prep efforts if you don’t know the areas you most need to improve on?

2. Make a Clear Admissions Test Study Plan and Stick to It

After you’ve taken an initial ACT or SAT practice test, it’s time to establish your admissions test study plan. It’s important that you analyze your practice test results carefully, so you can set up your study plan according to the areas you most need to improve in. For instance, if you score highly on the math section, but not so well on reading, then you know you should focus more of your study efforts on improving your reading section score. Now, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t study for the math section at all–rather, it simply means that you can direct your energies more toward reading than on math.

When you’re making your study plan, be sure to set aside time every single day to devote to test prep. It’s crucial that you get in the habit of spending some time each day on preparing for the exam in order to ensure you’re getting the most out of your study and that the material is sticking. It’s also a good idea to ramp up your study time as you get closer to the day of the test.

Finally, don’t neglect test-taking strategies in your test prep. A common mistake many test-takers make is that they focus all their study time on the test content, but they don’t spend much–if any–time on preparing for the actual process of taking this very unique test. Most quality ACT and SAT prep materials will include at least some information and guidance on test-taking strategies–both in general and for the ACT and SAT specifically.

3. Get a Quality ACT or SAT Prep Book (or Two)

The classic way to prepare for any standardized test is with a good prep book. And there are plenty of great ACT and SAT prep books available. However, there are also a good number of low-quality books out there too, so be sure to get a book from a reputable test prep publisher. We recommend the ACT prep books published by Kaplan, Barron’s, and the Princeton Review. Another excellent option is the one provided by ACT, Inc. itself, published by Wiley.

Even though there are countless resources for SAT exam prep available for free or to purchase online, the best SAT prep books out there are still often the most comprehensive and effective resources to ensure you’re ready for test day. Further, as long as you get a prep book from a reputable source, you can be sure that the information and guidance in it is reliable and trustworthy–something that can’t always be said for much of the SAT prep content available freely online. Look for SAT prep books by publishers like The Princeton Review, Kaplan, Gruber’s, Barron’s, and the one published by the College Board itself.

4. Take an Online ACT or SAT Prep Course

While ACT prep books are great resources, they pale in comparison to getting an ACT prep course. These online courses are easily the most effective way to crush your ACT exam. They are full of excellent features that will ensure you get the most out of your ACT prep. Even better, they come with practice ACT exams and practice questions so you can continually assess your progress. Be sure to check out our list of best ACT prep courses to discover the course that best suits your personal learning style and needs.

As for the SAT, there’s no denying the effectiveness and ease-of-use you’ll find among some of the best SAT prep courses available. With excellent options out there like Magoosh, Kaplan, Princeton Review, and Prep Scholar, you’re sure to find an SAT prep course that meets your study needs. Whether you want a more comprehensive course or a course with tons of practice tests and questions or one with thorough video instruction, there’s a great SAT prep course for any kind of learner.

A Final Word on the SAT and ACT

Regardless of which college admissions exam you choose to take, it’s crucial that you prepare diligently. These tests are quite unlike any you’ve taken in high school or otherwise, so you have to do your research on both the content of the exams, as well as the best test-taking strategies for each. Hopefully, if you take these suggestions seriously, you’ll be able to ace either or both exams and land a coveted spot at your dream college!

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