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How to Ace Your First ACT and SAT

Caitlin Kaleta, Staff Writer

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Studying for standardized tests takes good discipline and organization. Photo by Sabri Tuzcu on Unsplash

ACT and SAT sessions are drawing closer and, for many, have already happened. If you are not happy with your score or have not taken either of these two tests yet, I have some tips to maximize your scores.

Test Session Dates

These tests have similar studying strategies, so studying for one should prepare you really well to take the other test. Signing up for a ACT test session close to the time you take the SAT will be beneficial, to keep your skills sharp. Don’t place the dates so close to each other that you will be stressed but one to three weeks apart.

A Study Plan

There are many ACT and SAT preparation books and classes, but to get the maximum benefit of these resources, you must plan a long-term study plan. Not only is the material a lot to cover, but the outcome of these tests are not determined by your knowledge of information but also by your strategies for taking the test. Knowing the type of questions that are going to be present on each section of the test, whether it be science, math, reading, or english, is going to help you study by practicing the types of problems you struggle with.

How to Study

Taking practice tests and timing yourself are great ways to determine where your time needs to be spent. For some people the issues do not lie in the problems themselves, but in the time you have to complete the section. When taking the ACT or SAT you do not have to blast through the problems,  just try to complete them with a sense of urgency. Finding the most efficient ways to complete the problems when studying can spare you a lot of time. Many of the sections start with the easier problems and get harder as they go along, so it is important not to burn out after the first couple of questions because you are going to want to be focused and alert for the problems close to the end of the section.

Tips and Tricks

Each section is multiple choice and you can just move through many of the questions without doing much problem solving or thinking. Based on the selection of answers you can conclude what type of skill a question is testing and know which answer to pick. For example, the English section on the ACT has questions that are based on redundancy of terms. For example, if the multiple choice answer selections are relatively similar in sentence structure just adjusting a section of words,  the shortest answer is most likely the right one.


Making sure that you know the content on the test is a huge part of your score. However, making sure to take care of yourself the night before is also quite crucial to your test performance. Set your alarm to give you a comfortable amount of time to get ready in the morning. Plenty of sleep the night before will give you lots of energy to endure the long test hours. Most students normally skip breakfast but there is no benefit for doing a test on an empty stomach. Do not try cramming the night before; there is really not much you can do the night before the test other than create a stress free night to prepare for the big day. Setting all the stuff you need to bring all in one place or bag the night before is great way to make sure you are not forgetting anything test day. On test day, avoid caffeine unless you usually have caffeine in the mornings because it will make you jittery and anxious. Caffeine also acts as a diuretic, which means you are going to want to take more bathroom breaks during the test, which would mean less time to work on the test. The test is a learning experience and will be a great tool to use for those that are going to take it more than once.

Study Hard!

These little tips can make the difference between getting into your second or third choice college and your dream school. It is true that experience is one of life’s best teachers. But, if you don’t study, you will probably never get any experience in the first place. Study hard and good luck on the test! Hopefully you only have to take it once!

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