“How to Survive the SAT (and ACT)” – Part 1

I ran across the book “How to Survive the SAT (and ACT)” at my library and decided to check it out. The book is essentially a compilation of quotations from students who took the SAT and/or the ACT – thoughts, suggestions, hints, tips, etc. – arranged into topical chapters. It’s an excellent book – very easy (and quick!) to read and very poignant. I’ll share some general findings in this post, some ACT vs. SAT findings in my next post, and then some SAT-specific findings in a third post.

(Please, do not consider what I’m posting here and in the next two posts to be in any way all there is in this book; there’s a lot of information, and it’s all very good. I’m simply sharing some general findings that I think are particularly relevant.)

Standardized Tests

Whether or not the SAT (or ACT) score provides a measurement of how well you’ll do in college is debatable. These tests do, however, help you hone valuable skills that you’ll need both in college and throughout life: how to manage pressure and deal with stress, and how to set a goal and a create a schedule to meet that goal. These skills are signs of maturity and discipline that all colleges and all employers are looking for.

Your college record is definitely the most important component of your application; however, for many colleges there needs to be some way to compare students. The SAT and the ACT can provide this.

Getting Started

There’s no way to cram for either test. You should begin studying 3-6 months in advance, using your PSAT/PLAN results, initially, to guide your practice.

Have a goal score/score range. As you practice, compare your practice results to your goal.

How To Study

Create a consistent study schedule and follow it. Get to know the test well; take practice tests. When you finish a practice test, review every answer you got wrong (and, on the SAT, omitted) and spend the time necessary to figure out how to get it right.

Tricks and Strategies

Time is an issue for everyone, so practice until you understand how to pace yourself.

On the SAT, be cognizant of the fact that a wrong answer results in a subtraction from your raw score; omitting questions is, in many cases, a very good strategy. (This is not true for the ACT. There’s no penalty for a wrong answer; therefore, spend the last 15-20 seconds of each section bubbling in every blank.)

Keep in mind that all questions count equally.

Last-Minute Preparations

These tests are long, so make sure you get a good night’s sleep and eat a good breakfast. Also, don’t forget to bring a healthy snack.

Dress comfortably in clothing that inspires your best thinking. Make sure what you wear (and bring) will keep you comfortable if the testing room is too hot or too cold.

Bring your own watch.

Taking The Test


Hope this help. Don’t forget… Plan, Practice, Perform. 🙂

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